Assimilation (or “Why I Support the Wallabies”)

October 25, 2015

outback290I was a migrant. Past tense if you please. At some point you stop being a migrant and become a citizen. Not because of a piece of paper received from the government, but because you decide you are no longer a guest but rather a host. That you are not just part of the place, but of the place. Read more

Citizenship Jingoism?

August 23, 2009

citizenship_ceremony290.jpgSurprised myself by discovering not so. My own ceremony was held with a small handful of others in the office of some Melbourne based Minister. I can’t recall who he was. Last week I attended a citizenship ceremony in North Sydney and discovered it was a quite emotive and sentimental affair. I lost track of the number of nationalities but every continent was represented by teary and emotive people, some pictured here wanting a picture of themselves with the mayor. (Who I have to say did an excellent job of making a group ceremony special to each person). Even someone from Iceland. I enjoyed every minute as an observer but was surprised by the Mayor who suggested those of us existing citizens might like to reaffirm our “vows.” It was a special moment, all the more poignant for its unexpectedness. Indeed, it was almost enough to have me learn the words of our national anthem.

Chum Creek Fire

February 9, 2009

fire2901.jpgI read the news this morning and, like everyone else in this country, kept a morbid eye on the growing death toll. Suddenly through the course of the morning I was jolted by the realisation that one of the news items had mentioned Chum Creek Rd, an address where friends lived. Relatives of JD no less. I imagined the worst and the impact that would have on the wider family. At one point I resigned myself to another visit to Victoria for funerals. With phones to the area out, and emails not answered (I could hardly imagine them checking emails at a time like this) I was barely able to keep my mind on the job until Facebook came to the rescue and I was told by other family that they were OK. Read more

Spud Murphy’s ANZAC Day

April 26, 2007

I love this photo, taken by Steven Siewert, in the early morning rain which dumped on Sydney yesterday. Wednesday the 25th of April is ANZAC Day and war memorials all over the country, and in New Zealand, have crowds gather around to remember our war dead, and living. For a period through the late seventies and eighties there was a fear these gatherings would fade out as our veterans faded away. But the dawn services and the parade that follows has a strong following today, with the younger members of our community taking a strong and real interest in the events and celebrations.

Yesterday the usual parade in Sydney took place, as did the dawn memorial service in Martin Place where it rained solidly on all who had gathered there. I don’t know Spud Murphy but he found his way onto the front page of the paper this morning. The rain is bouncing of his pate, his medals and shoulders. His suit is soaked. But he stands there as if there is no rain at all. No cringe or uncomfortable slouch. Rather a stoic and focused standing to attention with a purposeful look on his face. Knowing that he is a veteran of the Vietnam War somehow made the picture all the more poignant. Perhaps remembering places and friends and faces and his part in our history. And perhaps the sluicing rain of a Vietnam wet season. Who knows?

KangarooValley Rain

April 22, 2007

The limestone escarpments drop like a blunt forehead from under a sharply cut fringe of tall timber and dense undergrowth to a gently sloping easement that runs out to the coast a couple of miles away and on which more grass grows than the dairy cows know what to do with. In this humid weather, with moist air being lifted off the ocean and driven up and over these heights the likelihood of rain is high. On this coastal fringe 100mm (4inches) or more can fall in an afternoon, but exhausting supply before getting twenty miles inland to the dams which feed this city. Yesterday was a spectacular and dramatic run up that escarpment, though the winding hairpin bends of Kangaroo Valley. As we ran in from the coast two curtains headed us off and draped themselves alongside. One was a dark gray backdrop of flat cloud which gave no sense of depth or movement. Just a dark premonition of heavy rain. In front of it was a roiling, boiling cloud as black as night, slipping up and off the escarpment, lashing the tree ferns, beating the ash, hammering the eucalypts into a rain of accompanying leaves and hinting at an uncommon fall of water. And so it was as we hit the mountain. The noise was deafening, and visibility was reduced to watching the taillights in front of us. A sobering effect, the unspoken thought being, ‘what if we break-down in this?” Such was the dramatic, drumming, hostile effect that all ipods were removed from the ears of my passengers as they gazed outside and wondered at the spectacle. Rivers of mud and stone were sluiced off the hills and driven across the road, hairpins became watercourses of bouncing, boiling, white water. Sticks and leaves boated past at speeds that easily outstripped us. We crept up through the pass into the darkness, the lightning and instantaneous crack of thunder giving the sense we were being slapped along from behind by this storm. Yet, the occasional glimpse out to the left revealed the unusual spectacle of a valley in sunshine and under a clear sky. We ran on, up and over the pass and down the other side. The storm followed and kept clawing at us, the occasional drop of rain keeping us alert to the possibility of another dousing until we finally outran it. I read in the mornings papers that the record low dam levels remain just that, with none of that torrential rain touching them.

A Whale of a Time

April 14, 2007

Back in 1984 I was sent for a month to a remote airbase called Learmonth (sounds like a prison sentence and it was – the base is located in the desert (Google Earth 22°13’22.43″S 114° 5’12.81″E) with no nearby townships) for a combined military exercise with the USAF 8th Tactical Fighter Wing out of Kunsan, Korea. They came down and flogged their aircraft around in glee at the wide open spaces. We enjoyed the spectacle. In the slower moments of the exercise we took our police dogs down to the crystal clear waters of the Exmouth Gulf but they came out of the water pretty quickly after a few minutes. Nothing we could do could convince them back into the water. After scratching our heads for a while we saw why, when shadows of sharks started drifting up and down off the beach, about thirty metres away. Big sharks. The dogs knew long before we did. Any ideas about swimming went straight out the window.

A friend has just emailed photos he took last week of the whale sharks in Western Australia. Said he had flown into Learmonth and then travelled to Ningaloo Reef to see these creatures. Not the sinister sharks that we saw in 1984, these docile fish are found further out on the reef and by all accounts are worth the visit. At the right time of the year you can come here and swim with these things. As my friend has just done. Back then I enjoyed watching aircraft belting around the sky with little inhibition but I think a visit back to that part of the world nowadays would be purely for the whale sharks.

The Little Guy Holds Out – Forever?

April 13, 2007

This afternoon I was prompted by the question, “why no accounts about travel in Australia?” I had no sensible answer for that, except perhaps that I have not kept any diary or log of any domestic travel. Other than the 6000km return trip into the depths of the tropics in a Suzuki van powered by a tired 900cc engine. In midsummer. 90km/h downhill only. Windows wound down the whole way. That was the the backbone of our honeymoon – some trips are best forgotten.

But putting that prompt together with the weekly, now fortnightly, drawing challenge at Blue Sky Studio, I thought I could tie both challenges together, although my art is nowhere as accomplished as those professionals. Their current challenge is “On the Way to Work this Morning I Saw…”

On the way to work this morning (yes, sadly Saturday) I saw something that makes me smile most mornings. In North Sydney, stuck between two large office blocks is a small two story building which is perhaps only 5-6 metres wide. It belongs to a watchmaker. He has managed to hold out and not sell his little premises. Something like the nail house guys in China. Not only is the shop front narrow but the shop is very shallow. The owner strikes you as one of those European types who managed to get out of Nazi Germany just in time. A careworn look. Maybe that look has come about from years of fighting developers, rather than the oppressive politics of a home country. His advertising has that blue tint of faded colour prints left on the wall far too long and many of the pieces are out of your grandparents house. And if you are a 1974 James Bond he has just the time piece for you. But he seems to get enough custom to keep him going. I have no idea how long he thinks he can hang on there.