An incomprehensible tragedy

This morning I learned that a childhood friend of my eldest child had been killed in a hit and run incident in Winchelsea, Victoria. I remember this child well, he and my son (daughter at the time) were good mates in primary school. Don’t recall exactly how old they were when they used to hang out, maybe 8 or 9?  His name was Tyler, and he was the youngest son of a single parent family. His mother, Janelle, was a lovely lady I got along with quite well. I used to sit and have a coffee and a chat with her when i’d go and pick Alister (then Eris) up. She worked at an insurance company in town as a receptionist and Tyler was her entire world.  As a single mother for nine of my eldest’s nineteen years, I know how it is to raise children on my own, and how close you become as a result. You’re all each other has, even when there is support from the extended family.  I count my children as my best friends and most loyal supporters in anything I do.  They are, as Tyler was to his heartbroken mum, absolutely everything to me and always will be.

I cannot fathom the pain Tyler’s mother must be feeling. My heart goes out to her. I hope they throw the book at the lout who hit Tyler as he rode his motorized bike and left him for dead. It was dark and the killer didn’t have his headlights on. I’m betting the car, an SUV, was stolen. The justice system has to make this piece of shit accountable for his actions. A mother has lost a precious son; a community its innocence, yet again, after the events of 2006, when Robert Faquarson killed his three young sons in Winchelsea dam.

Tragedies like this really bring home to you just how lucky you are as a parent and how precious your children are. I can’t tell you all how relieved I was when my son told me he had no intention of getting his license anytime soon. I have friends whose children are probationary drivers and they must chew their fingernails to the quick until the car pulls up in their driveway. I know I would, every time!  As regular readers of my blog would know, I am the mother of a transgender teen. My son came out to me just over two years ago, informing me that he’d always felt like he was in the wrong body and that he fully intended to live as a male and change his name. We have gone through several counselling sessions together at the Royal Children’s hospital in Melbourne, as it is the only gender clinic of its type in Victoria, as well as numerous doctor’s visits and, for the past year, Al has been receiving testosterone injections every three months. I recently began seeing a psychologist for my depression and low self esteem, and to do that I had to get my doctor to agree to a mental health plan. Imagine my disgust when my doctor, close to retirement age and a Catholic to boot, insinuated that my depression must be because of the fact that I had a daughter, and now I have a son. I was speechless at the time, and I wish I could have that moment back because I’d definitely tell him what I think of his assumptions. My son is NOT the cause of my long-standing depression. He doesn’t even factor into it. I’ve accepted his transition, largely because I’ve always felt, and said, that I didn’t need to have a son, I had Eris (his birth name). That’s how much he felt like a son to me, even before he came out and began living as a male. The idea that I’d “lost” a daughter is ludicrous to me. Especially now, hearing about Tyler. My child is still living, breathing, existing, gender notwithstanding. It’s not as if I’ve actually suffered the worst loss a parent can imagine. It’s not even slightly the same thing at all.

Rest in peace, Tyler. xo

 

 

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An unpopular Opinion … brace yourselves.

Someone has recently started a petition to convince Australia’s Channel 7 not to broadcast Liar, starring Ioan Gruffudd and Joanne Froggatt. His reasoning is that the drama discourages rape victims from reporting their sexual assault, as the female protagonist in the show is not believed by police.  Fair enough, right?

Well, here’s where it gets murky, at least for me. I’m all for reporting sexual assault if it’s a genuine sexual assault. Not a case of, ‘oh, I think he might have raped me’ (unless of course you were drugged and came to with him on top of you) or ‘I did everything but yank his dick and then told him no because I changed my mind.’   I may receive death threats for saying this, but if you go on a first date with someone – male or female – and invite them back to your place, into your room, onto your bed, start kissing, fondling, get naked etc, WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK THEY’RE LIKELY TO EXPECT?!!!! This is exactly what the female character does in Liar. Sure, SVU and other crime shows enforce the politically correct notion that no means no, and that it doesn’t matter what the situation, you can change your mind at any time, but at what point is it being a cock-tease? Why make a guy feel like a complete arsehole, and contrive to ruin his life, because he got the wrong end of the stick? Sure, if told no the person instigating sex should stop. That’s a given. But if you’ve given him all the right signals, and he thinks you’re good to go, and right before he’s about to do the deed you say ‘oops, changed my mind’ … is it just me or is that poor form?  I’m all for women being progressive and open about liking sex, and being just as free as men when it comes to having one night stands.  It’s the 21st century. The sexual revolution was in the ’60s and ’70s.  You go, girl. What I don’t like is the recent attitude that you can do everything bar jump a guy’s bones and then shut up shop.  If he then turns around and misconstrues your intentions, then you only have yourself to blame.

Aarrrghh… Tired of bigots.

Unless you live in Australia,  you haven’t been subjected to the deluge of ads on TV relating to the Same Sex Marriage postal plebiscite. Now, I’ve heard some pretty prejudiced, and downright idiotic statements coming from the right-wing conservatives in the US on matters pertaining to the LGBT community, and I didn’t think that Australia could outdo America when it came to blatant stupidity, but boy, was I wrong!

The latest offering from the Vote No campaign involves an ad where three women talk about how they’re frightened that once ‘the gays’ win the right to marry, they’re going to infiltrate schools and tell kids it’s all right to be gay / transgender. This line of thinking really grates my cheese. First of all, the Safe Schools policy is all about educating children about differences in the hope that bullying can be eradicated. It has nothing to do with the same sex marriage debate WHATSOEVER.  The LGBT community does NOT have an secret agenda to try to turn kids gay, or convince them that they were born in the wrong body. Nobody can tell a person who they are inside.  And they’re not trying to do that. All they’re trying to do is win the right to marry the person they love with all their heart and have it recognized legally in Australia.  That’s it.  Why that’s anyone’s business but theirs is beyond me, but our government, in their limited wisdom, has decided that it should be up to all Australians to decide whether gay couples should be allowed to marry.  I won’t bore you with my opinion on this, as I’ve already had my say in a previous post. The horse has well and truly bolted on that one. Nothing we can do as a nation but have our say, such as it is.

I’m just truly tired of listening to people who clearly have no fucking clue what they’re on about argue against marriage equality, because none of their arguments have any basis in reality.  I personally know of at least three couples who’ve been together, happily, for years, some much longer than most heterosexual couples I know. Why they’re not allowed the same legal protection under the law simply because of their gender is beyond me.  Love is love. And it seems to me that a great many of the Vote No brigade think that way because they’re coming from a religious/moral perspective. One thing Christians need to realise right now is this: CHRISTIANITY HAS NO MONOPOLY ON MARRIAGE. Pagans were marrying people – called handfasting – before Jesus was a twinkle in the eye of the bloke who wrote the Bible. Then Christians came along and said, thank you, heretics … we’ll take your Sabbats and your special rituals, holy days etc for our own, give them a new name, and you all can burn in hell for not letting Jesus into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour.  Then they named them as witches and burned them at the stake.  Lovely lot, those Christians. Full of compassion for their fellow man.  Or woman, as the case may be.

Speaking of which, as the parent of a transgender man I am used to people continually confusing gender with sexuality. As I’ve said, the Safe Schools program, in which children are taught about homosexuality and transgenderism, has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage equality.  What it does is educate people about differences such as gender and sexuality. It seems to me that a good many people who are complaining about Safe Schools would have benefited greatly from participating in such programs themselves.  Or at the very least, attended a PFLAG meeting or two. Let me break it down for you, in case you’re one of the above-mentioned. Gender is whether you’re male or female, regardless of which set of genitals you’re born with. Recent scientific evidence suggests that transgender people have similar brains to the gender they identify with. They may also have chromosomal differences (I say “differences” rather than “abnormalities” because, let’s face it, ladies and germs, we’re all abnormal, and if you’re not, why not?!).  Sexuality, on the other hand, is whether you’re attracted to males or females, or both.  You can be both transgender and gay, which basically means that once you transition to male or female, you still date people of the same gender. Or you can be transgender and bisexual, showing interest in both men and women. Gender and sexuality are two completely separate states. Which is why it makes me so angry when I read or hear people say they don’t want their children sharing a public toilet /restroom with a transgender male or female. They’re not perverts, pedophiles or rapists. They were simply born in the wrong body. (And just on that, what does it matter what genitals they have, if they’re sitting in a private cubicle?!). Speaking from my own experience, my son, who spent the first fifteen years of his life as a girl, has always felt like a son rather than a daughter to me. He’s always been interested in gaming, computers, sci-fi and superheroes.  He never played with dolls unless they were the only available option.  And he would absolutely refuse to wear school dresses or kilts. Two years ago he told us he wanted to change his name and live life as a male.  It didn’t happen all at once – there were little hints and clues along the way. Some members of our family didn’t react well to the news at all. But on the whole, everyone seems to have accepted it and moved past it. We’re all using his preferred name, as well as the correct pronouns, and to be honest, whenever somebody calls him a lady or girl, either by accident or intentionally, it just feels and sounds wrong.

But I digress. In short, it’s a great big wide world out there and despite the fact that we all come in different sizes, shapes, nationalities etc, we’re all human, and we all want to be loved. The LGBT community are a wonderfully giving, caring, positive group of people who just want to be treated like everyone else, and have the same rights as everyone else.   And why shouldn’t they? After all, as the religious among us keep saying, “God makes no mistakes.”

 

 

Love is Love

Okay so even if you’re not from Australia you’ve possibly heard about how much of an extreme piss-ant our current PM, Malcolm Turnbull is. A gutless, whiny turd with absolutely no backbone to speak of. And before you say ‘but you voted for him’, no, I didn’t. The ludicrously named Liberal Party paid their way back into power as soon as they realised they were about to be overrun by the people’s party, Labor. But that’s another story of corruption and greed, altogether.

Today is about love, and how the government has gone out of its way to stall a decision on marriage equality.  You see, the people who run Australia (and I use the term ‘people’ very loosely, when I describe this bunch) have decided, in their limited wisdom, to run a postal plebiscite since the ‘real’ one was voted down in the Senate. So now, even though they didn’t have the opportunity to get on their conservative Christian soapbox and tell us how marriage equality was going to promote bestiality and paedophilia, they’re still going to be able to launch an assault on the LGBT community with the use of brochures (I believe the US calls them fliers) and ads bemoaning the evils of gay marriage. At least until sometime in November, when we’ve all got to send in our votes.

The problem with this is, nobody wanted this plebiscite, postal or electoral, except the bigots who believe everyone deserves a say on whether gay people can have the same legal rights as other human beings. Personally, straight female or not, I find it offensive that one group of humans wants EVERYONE to be able to decide if another group is equal in the eyes of the law. The government should have had a free vote in parliament and this would have been done and dusted. The way all – or most – laws are created. But no – the dishonorable Johnny Howard snuck into the rule book and changed the definition of the Marriage Act while he was our esteemed leader. Now it says ‘man and woman’. Before, it simply stated ‘two consenting adults.’  Why the current mob can’t go and just change it back is beyond me, but I digress.

So now we’ve got this postal vote to contend with. Doesn’t bother me, my vote is an overwhelming YES either way. I don’t even think I have the right to vote on such an issue, but as that argument is now moot, I’ll move on. The thing that alarms me is, there are so many people getting on social media saying that they’re either not going to vote at all or they’re going to vote no simply because they don’t like the idea of the plebiscite. Or, a third option, they’re going to put glitter in their envelope. Don’t they realise that this kind of thing is playing right into the hands of our not-so-liberal Liberal government?!  Even if the vote counters do open the envelope, they’re likely to count it as a donkey vote which means it’s completely wasted.  So I say this to whoever is planning on any such tactics: please don’t. If you believe in true equality across the board; if you believe that EVERYONE has the right to marry their soulmate and enjoy the same protections under the law that marriage gives the next of kin, vote YES.  Who gives a fuck whether you think we should be having a postal vote or not?  Like it or not, it’s happening. It’s a phenomenal waste of 122 million dollars, but hey, apparently we’ve got it to splash around, despite the high unemployment, high homeless rate, high power bills, and low average income. To say nothing of the fact that welfare benefits haven’t increased since 1994, but that’s another story, again …

So just before I go, I’ll say it again: for marriage equality in Australia, or to at least show the LNP that the majority of Australia wants marriage equality (not that the pricks have to do anything about it, as it’s essentially a non-binding opinion poll), vote YES.

Without glitter.

R.I.P Chester

I may anger some with my opinion here, but I’ve read a lot of comments about the passing of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, accusing him of being a coward for killing himself and leaving his family (including six children from two wives) behind. And one thing that occurred to me was, why is it selfish or cowardly to want the pain to end when you’ve suffered from depression your entire life?!  Who says he never sought help or tried his hardest to conquer feelings of hopelessness or self-loathing?!  The first reaction people invariably have when someone kills themselves is anger. But if you’ve ever suffered depression yourself or know someone who has; or known someone who has committed suicide (or attempted it) you know that they’re not in their right minds. They’re in such a state of pain and hopelessness that they just want it to end. They’re not thinking of their families or friends. That’s not selfishness, that’s legitimate mental illness. And how is it selfish to want to die? Isn’t it selfish of a sufferer’s family to want them to continue on in that state? To know that they’ve felt like this for long time, perhaps years or decades, and despite help, they haven’t managed to keep their head above water?  Personally I think it’s more selfish to expect that person to keep going in a world they can’t understand or take, just because you’d be in pain if they left. Just my opinion, sue me.

I was a Linkin Park fan during the ’90’s and still occasionally listen to their two best albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora.  I think many of their songs speak to what may have been going on in Chester’s head. It’s all so much more poignant now when you listen to their songs because so many are about pain, despair, mental illness, relationship breakdown, paranoia etc.  I’ve heard that he was friends with Chris Cornell and that the Soundgarden vocalist’s death affected him deeply – so much so that Chester ended his life on what would have been Chris’s 53rd birthday.  Two deeply scarred souls; two incredible talents lost to this shit-stain of a world. All I can say is, at times, I can’t really blame them.

Procrastination… and a little objectification.

Hi y’all,

Haven’t written in a while, just thought I’d drop in and let my few followers know what’s going on re my writing etc. A couple of weeks ago I was informed that one of the stories on this site was accepted to be published by a literary journal and today I got the structural edit back. Imagine my surprise when there were very few changes to be made.  In fact there was only one real suggestion for improvement, involving adding a sentence to strengthen an action. Surely I’m not that good at formatting a story?!  Apparently I am. Woo-hoo, go me. Looking forward to seeing Behind Closed Doors in print. Hopefully won’t be too long now. Pretty sure the next issue of Verandah is out in September.

In other news, I’ve joined the rest of the waking world in getting Netflix and I have to say, I can’t believe it took me so long. Not only can I binge-watch Orange is the New Black and How to get away with Murder but I can also watch some of the true crime stuff I missed when downgrading my Foxtel package.  Thinking about ditching it altogether if you want to know the truth. I mean, fuck Rupert Murdoch, right?! (not literally, obviously. I’ll happily leave that nasty business to Jerry Hall). But that won’t be until after the current season of Game of Thrones is finished. I know where my priorities lie …

Speaking of priorities, I was looking at a few Youtube vids the other day – mostly Top 10 countdowns of this or that by watchmojo.com – you know, the kind of thing you do when you’re totally putting off doing something you should be doing. Like studying, or writing. Anyway, I came across a countdown of top ten sexiest actors of all time, and I completely disagreed with almost the entire list. It got me thinking: is my taste in my arse or should everyone else have gone to Specsavers?!   I mean, I must be the only woman alive who DOESN’T think Channing Tatum is hot.  The guy looks like a spud. Good body, sure, if you’re into the uber-buff look. He just doesn’t do it for me. Neither does Chris Hemsworth, as I’m not into blondes. Especially blondes with abundant facial hair. Although his voice alone could almost put him on my personal list. I’m not big on Brad Pitt, although Fight Club and Twelve Monkeys, among others, show he can definitely act. But I had to completely disagree with the site’s inclusion of Tom Cruise, Ryan Gosling and Leo DiCaprio. Don’t get me wrong – I like Leo, I really do – I just don’t want to sleep with him. I’m sure that if he met me, the feeling would be mutual.

Now, I know I’m only one person, but I have to ask: who did they poll to come up with these countdowns?

So here are mine. First, the top 10 hottest actors since 2000, then of all time. Some you may not know of, but that’s just because I don’t necessarily go for the most obvious choice in a TV show or movie.

SINCE 2000:

10. Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, The X-Men Franchise, UK Skins)

9. Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood, Big Little Lies, the latest installment of Tarzan)

8. Kit Harington (Game of Thrones)

7. James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, Split, Atonement)

6. Raul Esparza (Law and Order SVU, Hannibal, Pushing up Daisies)

5. Tom Hardy (The Revenant, Lawless, Mad Max: Fury Road)

4. Ricky Whittle (The 100, American Gods)

3. Bob Morley (The 100, Home and Away)

2. Matt McGorry (Orange is the New Black, How to get away with Murder)

  1. Richard Armitage (The Hobbit, North & South, BBC’s Robin Hood)

 

OF ALL TIME: Most of these need no introduction, but just in case, I’ve included roles I most associate them with).

10. River Phoenix (My Own Private Idaho, Sneakers, I Love you to Death)

9. Jared Padalecki (Supernatural, Gilmore Girls)

8. Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes)

7. Richard Armitage (The Hobbit, Robin Hood)

6. Johnny Depp (if he needs an intro, you’ve been living under a rock)

5. Harrison Ford (same as above, but I adore Han Solo)

4. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine)

3. Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road)

2. Carey Elwes (Westley from The Princess Bride)

  1. Keanu Reeves (Who else but Neo?! And if you’ve seen him lately, he’s barely aged a day since the early 2000’s. How DOES he do it?!).

Time for Change

Australian sport lovers: what superlatives come to mind when you think of Nathan Buckley? Champion captain of one of the most famous sporting clubs, not only in Australia, but the world? Six-time Copeland Trophy winner and only the third player in history to win a Norm Smith medal in a losing Grand Final?!  Brownlow medal winner? Or untried coach who was so loved by his club that they sacrificed a premiership-winning coach on the altar of nepotism?

Let me just say that I’m not a fan of Mick Malthouse.  Never have been, never will be. It used to bug the absolute shit out of me when he’d persevere with an on-field match-up that just was not working, either to teach the player a lesson in humility, or … well, I honestly can’t think of another reason why a coach would allow one of his own players to suffer like that. It’s beyond me. Another one of MM’s idiosyncrasies was his boundary-riding game plan. I was happier than a pig in shit when Bucks took over and declared that my beloved Pies would be using the corridor more often. Mick was fond of saying that we just didn’t have the cattle for such a bold move, but if that were true, why did both his former clubs – West Coast Eagles and Western Bulldogs – both hug the boundary like Mick’s daughter Christi when she worked for Channel 10?!   All jokes aside, when Mick Malthouse took the reins in 2000 it was after favorite son Tony Shaw coached the club to a wooden spoon in 1999. Two years later – TWO YEARS later – Collingwood played off in a Grand Final against the might of the Brisbane Lions, and came within 9 points of glory. I could go on about how we were robbed in that particular game, about how there were three specific incidents that lost us that game in unpaid free kicks, but I won’t. That’s another story.

After that painful day, it took MM another four years to get the Pies back into the finals. That first year, 2006, we were coming off the back of a couple of injury-ridden seasons that saw Mick have to play our B-team, and sometimes even our C-team, just to put players on the field. Those were lean years. But 2006 signaled something: a change in fortune. Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas joined the club. Heath Shaw began to make a name for himself. The Pies would play finals every season from 2006-2011 under Malthouse, of course winning that well-deserved flag in 2010.

During this successful period, Nathan Buckley’s accomplished playing career came to an abrupt end. Hampered by hamstring injuries, he called it a day after the narrow, heartbreaking 2007 Preliminary Final loss to Geelong.  First working as a commentator for Channel 7, he had his eye on bigger things. While travelling to the US to study coaching, and then working as an assistant coach at Collingwood under Malthouse from 2009-2011, Maguire and the board appeared panicked that their beloved champion would wind up coaching against us, and conceived the now infamous succession plan, in 2009.  Malthouse would step down as senior coach and take on the as-yet undefined role of ‘adviser’ while Buckley would coach his former team-mates: a feat rarely pulled off by players of their own clubs. Voss, Hird and of course Tony Shaw are all examples of champion players who failed as coaches of their own clubs. Why would Maguire et.al. think Buckley would be any different?!

Meanwhile, Mick Malthouse went from a much-loved coach in 2010 to a pariah, after announcing his departure from the club toward the end of the 2011 season, breaking his contract and the terms of the succession plan, which stated that he relinquish his role to Buckley in 2012. He’d just coached the Pies to a flag that was 11 years in the making and was on his way to a second successive Grand Final. ‘His boys’ were on track to a potential dynasty.  The news broke Pie hearts all over the land. It also destabilized the team going into the 2011 finals series.  To add insult to injury, he remarked later that he’d never coach against “his boys” and then promptly signed on as the coach of Collingwood’s most hated rival, Carlton.

And that’s where Mick Malthouse leaves this story.  Six years later, Nathan Buckley’s coaching career is, if not in immediate peril, then definitely at a crossroads. He’s taken a club that was at the top of it’s game in 2011 to a near cellar-dweller in 2017. Beset by a long injury list only a couple of years into his term, you could hardly blame him for early losses, but when star players returned and the Pies continued their slide down the ladder, the media microscope was turned on Nathan Buckley and his confusing game plan. People questioned whether he had the full backing and faith of his players. They also questioned some of his off-field decisions. Despite a bevy of expected retirements of veterans such as Simon Prestigiacomo, Chris Tarrant, Tarkyn Lockyer, Leon Davis and Shane O’Bree, there were rumblings that other senior players weren’t happy with the new coach and the feeling was most definitely mutual. In a move that I’m sure still has many fans baffled, Alan Didak was forced into retirement when he was de-listed, and another fan-favorite, Heath Shaw, was off-loaded to the newest team in the league, the GWS Giants. On-field spats with his captain Nick Maxwell, as well as an attitude problem, were blamed. I still call it the worst decision Buckley ever made, and I, as a longtime fan of Heath Shaw, will never forgive him for it.

But as they say, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. Over the intervening years we also lost premiership players to forced retirement through injury. I and many others like me shed a tear when the players gave Luke Ball a guard of honor during his last game, as he and Darren Jolly were a huge part of the reason why we won the flag in 2010. Then we lost Alan Toovey (and the much-loved chant of TOOOOOVES), Brent Macaffer, premiership captain Nick Maxwell, Ben Johnson, Leigh Brown and worst of all, Brownlow medal winner and all-round character, Dane Swan, due to a career-ending injury in 2016.

The new culture was blamed for moves to other clubs by premiership players like Dale Thomas, who was seduced by his former coach Mick Malthouse into playing for Carlton; Chris Dawes and Heritier LaMumba  to Melbourne and arguably, Sharrod Wellingham to the West Coast Eagles, although I think he just wanted to go home. More recently, Dayne Beams defected to the Brisbane Lions to play alongside his twin brother and be close to his father, who was sick with cancer. That I understand and don’t blame him for, although others undoubtedly do, for reasons I won’t go into here.  The last two premiership players to leave the nest were Travis Cloke (Bulldogs) and Nathan Brown (St Kilda).  The jury is still out on whether those decisions were made with the club’s best interests at heart.

So of the 2010 premiership team, a mere seven years later, we have: Captain Scott Pendlebury, hard-nut and swing-man Tyson Goldsack, courageous but physically fragile defender Ben Reid, perhaps the shortest man in the league in Jarryd Blair, and future captain Steele Sidebottom.  We have recruited a group of older players from other clubs to address our lack of experience on field and while some of these decisions have proven fruitful and even inspired – Travis Varcoe, for example – there are some who would say we’ve been wasteful, even short-sighted, at the recruitment table.  Jesse White has been patchy, Levi Greenwood serviceable in his role left by Brent Macaffer but not much more, and the Chris Mayne experiment has been an utter failure.  Of course not all of this can be laid at Buckley’s feet. It’s down to the entire board and recruitment staff.  But there are other questions being asked by supporters on bulletin boards and social media; questions about why certain players keep getting games ahead of youngsters like Matthew Scharenberg and Rupert Wills, despite consistent good form in the VFL.  Why the game plan seems to be an utter mystery not only to those watching it but those trying to implement it. Why the quality of our goal-kicking has never really improved despite numerous attempts to address the problem, and why, oh why, the constant ball movement backward and sideways under pressure?!  We are now into July and the finals are just under two months away. Collingwood now have no chance whatsoever of playing finals for the third or fourth year in a row, having only won FIVE GAMES, and Buckley’s contract is up at the end of the year.

Would I be universally hated for suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the succession plan was a bad idea?!

 

 

An update

Sorry about the earlier rant about my depression, folks. Was having a particularly bad week, so if I offended anyone I apologize.  Just to update the situation, I’ve had my first two appointments with my psychologist and she has given me homework to kick off my cognitive behavior therapy, which will hopefully help my self-esteem issues and improve my negative self-talk, something which I’ve done for most of my life. Let me give you a little (very recent) example. I’ve just found out that I will have a short story published in my university’s journal. Called Verandah, it’s been around for roughly 31 issues and is edited by current and former writing students.  There is a print and e-book version.  Anyway, I got the email today congratulating me on my inclusion. The story chosen is available on this blog but most likely won’t be in exactly the same form once published. It’s called Behind Closed Doors and its theme is domestic violence. The first thing I thought? Besides, ‘yay’ and all the associated internal woo-hoos, do you know what I thought?  Can you guess? Well, it was something along the lines of “well, they must not have had too many better offerings”.  Why do I do that? Only give myself a couple of seconds of praise and then turn it around on myself?!  I guess that is something I will have to work on in therapy.

 

School’s Out

This piece of fiction was in response to an assessment in my first year for Writing Craft: Place as an Encounter.  I received one of the highest marks I’ve had so far for it: 86% – a high distinction.  It’s inspired by the recent demolition of my former high school. 

‘Four Eyes’

‘Loser’

‘Nerd’

Insults rained like spitballs, aimed with precision to sting and humiliate. I don’t even know why I cared about their opinions, but that’s easy to say in retrospect, I suppose. Each hurtful word echoed in my head, matching the clatter of my footsteps as I roamed the not-so-hallowed halls, wishing I’d worn my old tennis shoes.

The grey speckled linoleum under my feet was cracked and peeling at the edges, the walls marked with sticky tape residue and the talentless tagging of teenage vandals. Here and there a window was broken, the stray slivers of glass still scattered across the floor. Just getting from one end of the hall to the other was like traversing a minefield.

The green door to the right was familiar.  Glancing through the window pane I recognized Mr. Coffee’s old science lab, looking lonely and forlorn without its cabinets full of Earlemeyer flasks and test tubes. They may have been packed and removed, but I was willing to bet at least some had been stolen by kids looking to start their own meth lab, like on Breaking Bad.  One of the glass sliding doors on the equipment cabinet across the room had been smashed.  I shook my head, chuckled to myself and moved on. Kids!

My next stop was the art and science storage room, the scene of many a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven or a sneaky cigarette break. Someone – usually me, because I could never draw back properly without launching into a coughing fit – would stand guard outside the door, ready to give the signal if a teacher approached.  Smokes would hastily be butted out and disposed of in old margarine containers or paint-stained glass jars.

Impulse would be sprayed around hastily to hide the smell, and the offenders would emerge, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

But I remembered that room mostly because it was the scene of my very first kiss, at the age of fourteen. It was supposed to have been a good memory, or so I was led to believe, but like so many others in this God-forsaken place, it was tainted.

Pushed through the door by my so-called friends, their laughter at my back, I was face-to-face with the boy version of me – a sickly looking kid whose thin frame even I could have snapped in half, if I had a mind to.

‘We don’t have to kiss, do we?’ he had asked, and I remember feeling more than mildly offended, which was odd, since I could barely remember his name.  Sean? Simon? It was something along those lines. I went immediately on the defensive.

‘What makes you think I want to kiss you, either?’ I’d snapped.

His face fell. ‘I didn’t mean it like that.’

‘Well how else could you mean it?’

‘I just meant… I’ve never kissed a girl before. I’m kind of freaking out, if you must know.’

‘Well, me too,’ I admitted. ‘So, do you want to just get this over with, or what?’

Sean – it was Sean, after all – shrugged, feigning nonchalance even as his teeth chattered. ‘Yeah. Okay. Whatever.’

Not-so-long story short, the kiss was wet and awkward, Sean was claustrophobic, and when he realized we’d been locked in, he raised merry hell, banging on the door until it burst open and he fell at the feet of none other than Lisa, the most popular girl in our year level, and the bane of my existence. Naturally.

‘Wow, you must have been a lousy kisser,’ Lisa chortled. ‘Lover Boy here can’t wait to get away from you.’

Sighing, I shook the scene from my memory bank and forged on.

A quick wander through B-block – which housed the principal’s office, reception, sick bay and library – evoked a fresh set of memories, both good and bad. Mostly I just felt a tinge of sadness that the bookshelves I used to hide between were gone, along with the stories that helped me escape real life.  It was the only part of the school in which I ever truly felt I belonged.

Moving on, I found myself pushing aside feelings of dread and inadequacy along with the heavy double doors of the cavernous gymnasium.  A basketball court stood between me and the stage at the far end.

…and on that court stood Lisa, again, flanked by her two best friends. Just like old times.

‘Catch,’ she said.

I threw up my hands to protect my glasses, and then flinched.  I don’t even wear glasses anymore!  Was I finally losing it?

Lisa and her minions laughed. She leaned forward and picked up the basketball, which had rolled back to her like an obedient dog.

I seethed. I might have been a pushover back then, but these days, I was damned if I was going to be humiliated by a mere memory!

‘I don’t know why you’re looking so proud of yourself,’ I hit back. ‘You didn’t exactly cover yourself in glory after high school did you?’

The smirk turned upside down.

‘Yeah, I heard the rumors. You slept with your boss. Got busted for drugs. And now you’re doing community service, picking up rubbish in the park.’

The strangest thing happened. As I watched, wrinkles appeared around her eyes. Her hair was suddenly shorter, shot with grey; her figure wider and frumpier, and the yellow t-shirt and netball skirt were replaced by a green jumpsuit. The basketball, like Cinderella’s pumpkin, had turned into a large garbage bag. She wore oversized rubber gloves on her hands.

I smiled, serenely. ‘Ain’t karma a bitch?’

‘Who are you talking to?’

I whirled around, to find my assistant staring at me as if I was an exhibit at the zoo. ‘What?’

He held out a clipboard. ‘Everything’s ready to go, Boss. You just have to sign off.’

I risked a glance over my shoulder. Lisa’s ghost was gone. So were her minions.  With any luck, so was their legacy. It was twenty years too late, but at last I’d stood up to them…after a fashion.

Wincing from the embarrassment of being caught talking to myself, I took the clipboard and added my signature to the consent form.  ‘It’s all empty,’ I told him. ‘We’re good to go.’

‘We’d better get out of here, then,’ he said, and I followed him outside, to a safe distance beyond the bulldozers and bobcats.  Tipping my hard hat forward on my head, I lifted my whistle, and watched as the high school I hated so fiercely for so many years was reduced to rubble.

 

 

Forever 23

Most people can pinpoint an event, or simply a moment in their lives that changed everything, for better or worse. My moment came in May 1993 when I was nineteen years old. It was a morning like any other; or so I thought.  Sunlight peeped around the edges of the Venetian blind at roughly 8am. I remember I was due to work in my father’s shop later that day, so I got to sleep in, but the sun clearly had other plans.

As did whoever was on the phone at this early hour. Who calls someone at their house before nine o’clock, I wondered. Telemarketers? If so, they were being cheekier than usual.

My bedroom was mere metres from the phone in the hallway, so I caught snippets of the conversation through my door. Mum was talking to one of her six brothers, and not grasping what he was trying to tell her.

Then she screamed, and it was the single worst sound I’d ever heard, up to that point.  I’m not even sure I could describe it to someone if they asked.  Maybe I repressed the sound somehow, but not the memory of hearing it; if that makes any sense.  She kept saying ‘No, no, you’re lying, it’s not true.’  When I finally dredged up the courage to find out what was wrong, she said, in a strange, flat tone: ‘Craig’s been killed.’ I’ve never seen my mother like that before and I hope I never do again.

Craig was my uncle – is my uncle.  He was four years older than me so was more like a cousin, really.  He was the youngest of a family of twelve children; my mother was third eldest.  The baby of the bunch, he learned to talk late because his siblings would speak for him. But that’s not to say that he was spoiled, or self-centred. He was one of the most giving people I’ve ever met.  He and his closest brother in age, Bob, taught us nieces and nephews the essentials in life: how to make a Hills Hoist into a flying fox, how to keep your feet while sliding along a soaped-up tarp in summer, and the delights of Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin at an ear-splitting volume. When he’d crank up the metal, the window panes would vibrate. He also introduced us to the irreverent humour of Ben Elton and The Young Ones. His favourite character was Vyvyan, and he could rattle off whole passages of dialogue in character.

I’ve always found it easy to express my emotions but initially at least, I was much too stunned to cry at the time, especially when I found out how it happened.  My mind could not grasp the concept. Who would want to shoot my uncle?!  He had a loving fiancée and two beautiful little girls.  And as far as we all knew, not an enemy in the world.  Until now.

We all gathered at my grandparents’ place in North Geelong that day as the news filtered through about how and where it had happened. To say the mood was sombre was an understatement.  Most of us sat or stood in the lounge and dining area, looking pale and stunned, with tears streaming down our faces. Some were more vocal than others, but the general feeling was of shock, at that stage. There was a lot of hugging going on, and talk of who might have done the awful deed. At that stage, the police had some persons of interest but had made no arrests. It wasn’t until the following morning we learned they had someone in custody. Someone who was saying it had been a case of mistaken identity. He was a complete stranger to Craig; but as time went on we’d learn more and more about the drug-addict who took the life of a beloved member of our family for no good reason. Among the things we learned was that he was out on bail when he killed Craig.  The charge was assault with a deadly weapon – a knife.  This fact would be one that would prompt one of my uncles to write a letter to the ombudsman outlining the case and asking why my uncle’s killer was allowed to walk the streets after committing such a violent assault.  It was because of a trivial argument that he’d wound up outside the address my uncle had visited that night, waiting with a friend – and a shotgun – for someone else, also called Craig.  It was something none of us could understand – how someone with a violent and drug-riddled history could be given the benefit of a doubt by a judge, who’d probably seen countless cases like this before. One thing that seemed to compound our collective grief and anger was the fact that the evening news confused Craig’s name with the name of my mother’s eldest brother. People were calling the house, thinking Gary was the one who’d been killed. I remember thinking just what shoddy journalism that was, although I can’t recall which station made the blunder.

Craig’s funeral was packed out. Such was the down-to-earth, caring nature of this man that so many people attended they were spilling out the door and into the foyer.  Songs were played on that day in June that I still have trouble listening to without getting a lump in my throat.  Stories were told about him by family and friends, mostly alluding to his off-beat sense of humour and generosity of spirit. But it was the image of his fiancée at his gravesite, and the heart-rending expression on her face, that will stay with me for life.

Whether you’re a member of the immediate family or a cousin or niece, as I was, murder changes you. You can’t escape it. Geelong is a small town and because of the size of my mother’s family, it seemed like everyone knew what had happened. The death notices in the newspaper ran for over a week. Friends didn’t know what to say, and my boyfriend at the time thought I’d be better off not talking about it.  But I did want to talk about it. I had so much to say.  I still have so much to say, almost a quarter of a century later.  So when, in 1995, a chance arose to speak at a forum about sentencing that was held upstairs at the Wool Museum, I jumped at it. I heard about it through VOCAL, the local chapter of the Victims of Crime Assistance League that I’d been in contact with since Craig’s murder.  They told me it was being held to compile data about crime and punishment in Victoria for a book on the subject, but that I might find it cathartic to speak my piece and there was bound to be important people in attendance who might have a say in getting laws changed.  I felt I couldn’t pass the opportunity up. I’m not a big public speaker and as I’ve mentioned, I’m quick to get choked up, but it was surprisingly easy to stand up, introduce myself to the room and tell my story.  I made sure the room knew Craig’s killer had been out on bail for a serious assault with a weapon when he chose to commit murder and that he’d also physically assaulted a corrections officer while on remand for Craig’s murder.  I asked why there is bail at all for violent offences. I also stressed the importance of victims having their say in court, via Victim Impact Statements, which were a relatively new concept at the time.  I wasn’t the only family member of a murder victim to speak, but we were all applauded and thanked for our time. Months later, when the book came out, I was mailed a copy. It was not the first time I’d seen my name in print – I wrote a newspaper article that was published in the Geelong Advertiser when I was in Year 12 – but I hope that I never have to see it attached to something like this ever again.

It may sound strange, but you join a special, unofficial club when someone you love is murdered. It’s not a club you ever want to be a member of, obviously. But to know that there are people in the world who have felt exactly the same as you (and undoubtedly worse) and can empathise, is oddly comforting.  VOCAL helped me out a lot in those first few weeks. Just calling to speak with Jenny, one of the ladies who counselled people back then, I learned that I most certainly wasn’t alone and that the anger I was feeling was totally normal. I’m not big on the idea of counselling, even now, but I didn’t want to burden my friends with this stuff. Not that I thought my friends would mind, or would be the type to phase me out of their lives because I’d become a downer to have around.  I just didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable, or think that they had to come up with the right words to console me.

I was also dealing with a number of other major life changes at the time – my parents’ marriage broke down quite spectacularly in the aftermath of her brother’s murder and my own relationship ended a few months later.  Then in November of that year, on Remembrance Day, of all things, my maternal grandfather died of natural causes. He’d suffered from heart problems and complications from diabetes for a long time but it was losing his youngest son that did him in. What made it even harder to take was he was actually starting to recover his strength and vitality. After Craig died he lost all will to fight.

They say time heals all wounds. I don’t believe that. I think you learn to live with the pain and find a place for the memories of the person you lost; somewhere removed from the front of your mind but still within reach at a moment’s notice.  As I said, some songs from the funeral are still incredibly difficult to listen to, but watching The Young Ones has special meaning now. It’s something that will always remind me of him, no matter how much time has passed.

Something that will also, unfortunately, always remind me of my uncle is the ongoing struggle of victims of crime to have the laws in this country surrounding bail changed.  Every year it seems there’s another terrible story of pain and loss that could have been avoided had the person who caused it been remanded in custody for previous violent acts instead of being let out on bail. The roll call is full of familiar names of victims: Jill Meagher, Sarah Cafferkey, Luke Batty, Masa Vukotic … and some not so familiar. Teresa Bradford was killed by her husband, David, who was on bail for attacking her on a previous occasion. The 2015 Sydney Lindt café siege was committed by a man on bail, as was the Bourke Street mall tragedy in January, where six people were run down and killed by Dmitri “Jimmy” Gargasoulas, who’d been released on bail the weekend before his killing spree – for stabbing his brother.

Caitlyn Bishop, in her article published on 2nd Feb 2017 on the Mamamia website, states that: “In the UK, 2011 research out of the Ministry of Justice found that every ten days, a murder is committed by a criminal out on bail. In Australia, the numbers aren’t that high but they’re high enough.”

This is disgraceful. It simply should not be happening. What does it take for a judge or magistrate to listen to warnings from the police – who deal with these offenders every day and know what they’re capable of – and simply not grant bail for violent offences? If they are indeed innocent then they have the opportunity to prove that at trial. The risk of allowing a violent offender back on the street, due to the presumption of innocence, has been shown time and time again to be an unacceptable one.

Glen Andrew (Jamie) Whelan was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for my uncle’s murder.  In the end, he served only four, having died of a drug overdose in 1998. This year, in November, Craig would have been forty-eight years of age. But to us he will remain forever frozen at 23.