Jul 05

Moses Storer was the first of my direct family branch to arrive here in Australia. He came from England and arrived in Adelaide in 1848. He was married to Mary Ann and came with their first child Moses.

Moses was born in 1827 in England. He was baptised in September that year.

Moses is a bit of a mystery really. He was one of 10 children, as far as I can work out, he had 6 of his own children, and lived for a while in Branxholme in Western Victoria, just south of Hamilton. However, he is buried in Western Australia, well, that’s as far as I know.

Moses sounds like such a respectable name, alas, that’s not what he was! In 1859 he appeared in an article in the Adelaide Observer:

GAWLER: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12.

HORSESTEALING. – James Fletcher and Moses Storer were charged with horsestealing under the following circumstances: – William Edson, farmer, of Bald Hill, near Lyndoch Valley, deposed that on the evening of Wednesday, the 5th inst., after ploughing with a horse and mare (which he minutely described) till 7 o’clock, the animals were put into a paddock by his daughter. They were his property, as shown by receipts containing marks and brands which with as produced. On fetching the working cattle up at 6 o’clock the next morning, the horse and mare were missing. Witness did not see his horses again till he met them on Tuesday, in possession of the police, on their way to Gawler, the two prisoners being mounted on them, near Butler & Grant’s Station. Moses Storer, who had formerly been his neighbour, said to him jocosely, as he came up. “Well, Mr. Edson, you see we’re bringing your horses back again.” The other prisoner, whom he did no know, shook his head, and said, “It’s a bad job”.

The brands had been very cleverly altered by additions, but the old marks could be readily distinguished.

Storer claimed the mare, saddle, and swag as his property. Fletcher claimed the horse. They said they had the receipts for the horses. Afterwards they said they not had got them, and they charged witness with having taken the receipts from them. Witness on searching them had found no receipts upon them.

They were both committed to take their trial at the Supreme Court

Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 – 1904), Saturday 15 January 1859, page 4
National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158125528

Because rebranding a horse always works… It would appear Moses and Fletcher were thrown into gaol to await their trial.

And then, tucked away towards the bottom of the Sheriff’s office notice is this:

South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1867),
Saturday 5 February 1859, page 4 –
National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96493384

Moses Storer, James Fletcher, Thomas Brasher, George Brasher, and Robert Cooper attempt to break prison! Now that must be a story. Come to Australia as a free-settler, steal a horse, then try to break out before you even get to trial!

The South Australian Advertiser has the full story:

DARING ATTEMPT TO BREAK OUT OF THE ADELAIDE GAOL.

A most determined endeavour to escape from prison was on Thursday discovered to have been made by the prisoners confined in the ward allotted to the prisoners committed for trial in the Adelaide Gaol. The facts of the case are simply these. Mr. Lawrence, the head turnkey, had for some days past observed a number of prisoners constantly hanging about the water-closet. This circumstance awakened his suspicions, and he took an opportunity of listening to their conversation, which he had an opportunity of doing from outside through a crevice in the wall. From expressions which he overheard he was convinced that some secret operations were being carried on. He therefore took an observation from the tower which overlooks the yard. He then perceived that a number of the prisoners were constantly about the closet, apparently relieving one another from time to time, at some secret work, while one was posted at the gate of the yard, obviously with a view of giving intimation of the approach of the guard. At 11 o-clock on Thursday morning Mr. Lawrence entered the ward, and surprised three of the prisoners at work excavating a passage under the closet. These were – Thomas Brasher, committed for trial on several charges; Cooper, committed for the attempt to murder Sergeant Badman; and another named Fletcher, committed for horse-stealing. The superfluous clothing of these persons was found lying on the floor of the closet. Mr. Lawrence with great promptitude ordered all the prisoners into their cells and locked them up, having previously placed a guard in the space between the outer and inner walls of the prison. The guard, while on duty there, happening to tread on the place under which the tunnelling had been made, broke through the crust of earth, and fell into an excavation nearly breast deep. This disturbance of the soil exposed a tunnel of about two and a half feet in diameter, leading under the outer wall. On inspection of the ground outside the wall, the earth was discovered to have been undermined, and Mr. Egan, the keeper of the gaol, while walking round, fell through into an excavation of the same kind. The surface soil had been approached within a few inches, and it was evident that the prisoners had been just on the eve of their escape. The plan of operations appeared to have been well matured, and skilfully executed. In order to understand the attempted scheme, it will be necessary to describe the obstacles overcome. From each ward in the prison there are culverts leading from the water-closets into the river Torrens. The culvert in No. 4 ward, where the committed prisoners were confined, had recently been cleaned out, thus removing one difficulty. The prisoners had evidently taken into account the circumstance that the construction of the culverts would necessarily loosen the surrounding soil, which would consequently be easily removed. They had descended through the seat of the closet, and transmitted the earth by means of such instruments as they had at command, and disposal of the clay removed by depositing it in an intervening cesspool, so that no traces of their work were visible above ground. There is no doubt that each prisoner relieved the other at stated intervals, and that everything was ready for an escape at noon on that day, when the guard in charge of the prisoners working outside would be off the beat. The vigilance of the head turnkey, however, frustrated their well-laid plans, and the attempt will only remain on record as one of the most skilful and determined ever recorded in the criminal annals of South Australia. There are 17 prisoners in the ward, committed for trial, all of whom would have been at liberty within a few minutes after the discovery was made. It would not be out of place here to notice the very small guard in the gaol. Four guards only watch over about 110 prisoners. One of these is constantly employed superintending the prisoners engaged in quarrying outside; one of the other three is frequently engaged in taking prisoners to the courts, and in additional, has to be on guard at night. It will thus be seen that very frequently there are only two available guards to watch over the safety of 110 prisoners. It can matter of no surprise that an escape has been attempted, but it is almost surprising that the recent attempt has not proved successful.

South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), Friday 28 January 1859, page 3
National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article788333

I guess that’s one way to pass the time.

The ledger at the Supreme Court shows us the Prisoners for Trial on 14th February, Moses is listed as number 25 on February 18th, along his fellow horse-thief, James Fletcher who also has an alias – H. Roberts. Their ages are recorded, Moses was 31, Fletcher 30. Moses’ age has allowed me to trace it back to his birth year of 1827. The charge says:

Feloniously stealing a bald-faced brown horse and a bay mare, the property of William Edson, 6th January.

Further down the same printed sheet at 42 to 47, we find the names of the prisoners who tried to escape by digging a tunnel through the dunny. That charge reads:

Feloniously and unlawfully attempting to break prison and escape from H. M. Gaol, while in custody awaiting trial for certain felonies, at Adelaide, 27 January.

That case is listed for February 23rd.

In the court ledger, the outcome of the trial is written:

11. James Fletcher als. Henry Roberts

12. Moses Storer

Stealing one gelding and one mare the property of William Edson. Plea by both prisoners – Guilty.

Sentence James Fletcher and Moses Storer to be severally kept in penal servitude for three years.

The South Australian Register published the outcome of the day’s work of the court under a column called Criminal Side and here we find the report of Moses:

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), Tuesday 1 March 1859, page 3
National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49898267

James Fletcher, alias H. Roberts, and Moses Storer, convicted on their own confession of horse-stealing.
The Chief Justice sentenced the prisoners to three years imprisonment with hard labour.
Moses Storer handed in a paper.
The Chief Justice – You should have given this in before. You state that you had not the intention to steal the animal; then you should have pleaded not guilty and went to trial. I should wish every prisoner to plead not guilty if there is any doubt in his case.

Moses seems to have got that bit wrong! I wondered what the note said. Maybe it was the receipts for the horses that couldn’t be found at the time of his arrest. Still, too little too late for Moses.

We next find him in the Register of all Persons Brought to the Common Gaol of the Province of South Australia. He had been a guest there since his arrest in January.

Moses is recorded in that on page 72. It records he was gaoled on Jan 12 1859 and notes that he could read and write, was married, his religion was Church of England, he was a labourer and arrived in the colony from London in 1848. The Date of Discharge column notes March 8/59 and in the remarks column it seems to say To Dry Creek

And sure enough in the Prisoners’ Register of the Dry Creek Labour Prison we find Moses Storer, number 323. The entry confirms that he arrived from London on the Bezolar, which may be a misspelling or mispronunciation of Bussorah, it lists 2 brothers and 3 sisters as friends in the colony. It goes on to list his physical attributes, height, weight and forehead which is defined as “Good”. His expression is also marked as “Stern”

The only other remark is that he was discharged on 9th April 1860.

Here we leave the tale of Moses, First of Our Kind, Stealer of Horses and Crawler of Cesspools.

Jan 29

For years there have been calls to rename the Margaret Court Arena, she is an Australian tennis great. Great enough for a patch of sealed land to be named after her. 2020 is the celebration of 50 years since she grand-slammed a few balls.

Court is a homophobe. She says very not nice things about anyone not-straight, and she has done this using her position as a sporting legend to generate controversy and to convey her sinister message.

Then, along comes Tim Wilson – member for Goldstein with this little beauty:

“If you believe in a society of pluralism and diversity you have to accept people will have different views on morality,” said Wilson, who is openly gay and married his long-time partner shortly after the passage of the gay marriage legislation in Federal Parliament.

[Source]
Red faced Tim Wilson

This isn’t a different view on morality, the issue here is that of gender identity and sexual orientation. The reason to rename the court isn’t because of a different moral stance, it’s because Court uses her position to vilify people. The rest of society understands that sexuality and gender are not based on morality. Wilson’s attempt to restrict it to a ‘different view on morality’ is foolish. It ignores the real harm done when sporting ‘legends’ use their status to spew rhetoric that has been shown to cause great harm to people. Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion, doesn’t mean we need to give it credence by naming a sporting field after them.

“Airbrushing people’s legacy for expressing cultural dissent is too ‘1984’ for my liking,” Wilson added, a reference to the totalitarian dystopia of George Orwell’s novel.

[Source]

Airbrushing her legacy? Why on earth not? In any case, she isn’t being erased from the history books, we’re just asking to rename a tennis court. Her record stands. As to it being ‘1984’, that’s a little rich coming from someone who is in a government that does doublespeak all the time.

As usual, Wilson adds nothing to the debate, only ill-thought-out concepts that reek of his own bias and personal privilege.

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Oct 03

Today’s adventure is at the end of a very potholey road, somewhere between Mallacoota and the edge of the world. You can either walk to Shipwreck Creek along the foreshore or drive around the long way on an 8km stretch of sandy road that has potholes that I’m sure lead all the way to the other side of the world. However, the day is lovely, it’s bright and sunny, in the mid 20s and simply glorious!

Michael navigates our little blue car between the holes, although at times I’m sure he’s driving towards them rather than around them, still, we arrive at the day area of the Shipcreek Creek camping ground in once piece with both axles still attached to a wheel at each end.

Click to see more detail

Our destination is Seal Creek, and it’s only 3km away.

The first part of the walk takes us from the camping ground down to the beach and then back into the bush. It’s mostly tea tree, fairly dense and little sunlight hitting the ground. It’s not too long before we exit the scrubby bush and find ourselves in a heathland. This low-level bush allows us to see to the sea. The other thing it allows is the blooming of flowers.

In our modern era, I want all the flowers to be available to me right now. However, what I discover is that the flowers have a cycle that is only known to themselves. Some flowers are still budding, waiting for the perfect time to bloom, others have already had their time in the sun and are now browning petals dangling uncomfortably from stems.

I was hoping for much more colour, the 500 shades of blue, red, yellow and pink isn’t quite enough!

It’s true that we don’t see huge flowers, there are no dahlias, roses or tulips here to tiptoe through. Just delicate little things bursting with colour. We really have to slow down. Our normal quick pace becomes less than a stroll. Every few steps I stop, squint at a flower, bend at the hips, adjust the multi-focals to get a better view. If it’s something I haven’t seen before, I’ll point it out to Michael, we’ll muse for a minute together, I’ll move on few steps and Michael will stop to take some photos.

It’s a lovely walk in the late afternoon sun. There’s a little breeze and sometimes the faint calls of birds. The heathland continues to astound us as we get in good and close to the flowers. When we inspect the photos afterwards we often see a little spider or insect sitting on it.

We again walk into open woodland for awhile before out again on the heathland. The final part of our walk takes us again through the woods and down towards Seal Creek. This final bit is quite steep. We can see the creek in front of us, and it’s a tanninn colour water. The creek is blocked from entering the ocean, so it pools into a smallish lake.

We stop for a bit and watch a few birds fly around. Eat some food, drink a little water.

It’s now 5.45pm. It’s taken quite awhile to walk the 3k to get here. However, if we leave now, don’t dilly-dally too much, we should be back at the car just before night-fall.

Off we head! Up the steep incline and back on to the open heathland. But now it’s all changed. Whereas before we had bright sunshine, now we have dusk. The sun has dipped below a ridge to our west and given us a wonderful soft light. Michael is delighted as he snaps photos in this perfect light. He plays with his camera’s settings and gets some good shots.

The final part of the walk is almost in the dark. The tea trees kept the direct sunlight out earlier, now they bring an early night time. I find myself tripping on roots and rocks.

We get to the car and start the drive back home. It’s easier to drive on the pothole road now, as we can clearly see the shadows of the holes and avoid them.

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Oct 02

Genoa Falls is just off the highway. You might have a bit of trouble finding the little turnoff. It’s not really signposted at all.

At the end of a little sandy dirt road, a car park surrounded by pine barriers is a sign that declares you’ve found your way to the Genoa Falls.

Michael has arrived

A little walk along the path, through some scrub, and soon you can hear the sound of rushing water. Then the bush breaks away to reveal a large expanse of rock. A little stream of water tumbles over the rock as it makes its way through the area and on to the ocean.

Mostly rocks

We wander around. Apart from the running water, there is very little noise here. No birds, no traffic noise, no wind. Still and quiet.

We spread ourselves out and have afternoon tea, enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon sun while eating fruit and admiring the trees and clear sky.

We can hear a frog somewhere close by, it’s elusive, despite our efforts to train our ears to its location. As we make noise when we move around the frog stops.

I begin a systematic process of listening carefully and when I hear it croak, I move towards the noise and wait for it to start again.

It takes awhile, but I find a soggy patch of grass with a little puddle of water attached wedged between a crevice in the rocks. Here I think is my frog. I stand over it and am rewarded with the sound of croaking. I zero in, but alas, while I know I have the right spot, I can’t see it.

I move around the soggy patch and lower myself to the ground, laying on the rocks. I’ve now excluded all other background noises. The little rock ledge in front of me acts as a buffer. I’m hoping that I might actually see my little amphibian friend. I find all the local ants, and a strange cone-like insect moving down the stalk of grass, but no frog. When it finds its voice again, I am so close, and it such a local echo chamber that the noise becomes overwhelming as its croaking reverberates off the rocks and directly into my ears. I want to pull away it seems so loud, but I stay put to enjoy the sounds as it reaches its crescendo and then dies away for a moment, only to start all over again.

After a few minutes, the frog goes silent and I move on. I jump over the little running stream and onto a sandy bush track. I can hear more running water and head towards it, the low bushes give way to a large pool of water that is being fed by the little stream tumbling over the rocks. Years of erosion have the pool sitting in a perfect rock depression. The water is dark and cool. The bottom is covered with fallen leaves, branches and silt. It looks inviting enough to swim in with its little waterfall feeding it at one end and then pouring out the other. The rock pool is surrounded on one side by large boulders, and those boulders have perfectly round holes that again are the result of erosion, as the water spins small rocks around, they drill into the softer rocks, causing perfectly smooth holes that fill with water.

I follow the stream up stream and find myself on the same rock face that I left from. Michael is there taking photos. As I sit and watch him I see a faint movement off in the distance. At first I’m not sure what it is, but I think I can see a log that wasn’t there before. I lift my binoculars and train them towards the new log, only to discover that it has four legs and a tail and is busily looking at me!

Esmeralda! Our East Gippsland Water-Dragon. She’s one of the main reasons for our visit. She sits very still as I watch her and then signal to Michael, who points his camera at her and starts snapping. Michael slowly moves towards Esmeralda, who clearly isn’t too worried. She plods around in her own time, laying flat at times on the warm rocks in the last of the direct sunlight. Every now and then, she would lift her head and do a nodding motion. She jumps off behind some rocks and disappears.

Our final delight for the day is some small orchids. Michael notices them growing from a small rock shelf. We spend some time admiring them before the failing light and an increasing chill in the air sends us home.

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Sep 26

Put me on the top of a mountain and happiness happens by default.

Setting: Happiness (Default)
It looms!

The old days of leaping a mountain in a single day seems like such a distant memory. As does climbing Mt. Imlay, the first time was in 2011. I remember the dirt road, the logged forest and this huge mountain in front of me. Mountains like this are said to loom. And here it is, a looming mountain. Begging to be climbed. As looming mountains are want to do.

Any notion that you simply lob up to a looming mountain to loom it is foolhardy, to say the least. However, that didn’t stop Michael and me, for lobbed we did. We quickly stopped the car, got out, applied our sunscreen, went to the toilet, read the information board, prepared our backpacks, changed our socks, put on our hiking boots, adjusted our hats and left. This sort of lobbing takes proper preparation.

The day was glorious. The sun was out and bright, which isn’t surprising as it was daytime, just before lunch, so therefore morning. There was a distinct lack of clouds, and this helps for a bright day and the sun being out. It was coolish, but not cold.

Legs not quite fallen off yet

The first part of the walk is steep, as it the second part and the third part. In between the steep bits, it’s steep, but a little less steep. Still, when it’s steep your legs scream at you. When it’s a little less steep, your legs make you stop.

So, with my screaming legs, we made our way upwards, go down for a little bit, and then the final stretch to the top. My heart beats to match the upwards and down movement of my legs. In those days of yore, I knew when my heartbeat was at maximum because my teeth would start to rattle in my head. These days I have an app.

Last time we hiked this at the start of September, this time, we’re at the other end of the month. We have wanted to return over all these years to see more flowers! In particular, we wanted to see the Mount Imlay Boronia (Boronia imlayensis). First however, to the top!

It took us 1 hour and 57 minutes and 14 seconds to get there, I have an app. Luckily the last bit of the upward is pretty flat, but steep. We sat on the ground in a sort of collapsed fashion, like a drying bean bag that has been unpegged from the clothesline.

After we recovered enough we chewed on some food and then looked around the site, admired the view, took a selfie, posted to social media, made a phone call, transferred money from my account to someone else’s and drank some water.

Then, the easy bit, we started down. It is also steep but in the other direction. Luckily we are more interested in taking photos of wonderful things. This means that the down trip takes 2 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds. If you’re astute, and I’m sure you are, then you will notice that it takes us 43 minutes longer to descend. That’s pretty amazing, as the declination is enough that you could probably slide all the way down in half the time.

And this is why we are here. The amazing and wonderfully delightful Mount Imlay Boronia. This rare plant only grows on this mountain in an area of about 500 meters x 50 meters. It’s clear that it wants to make the most of the space, everywhere we turn is another blossom.

Once we drop off the top, that would be about 50 meters, the boronias disappear and we are back into the rough rocky ground. Everywhere around me life abounds. The silver ashes gracefully reach upwards, the grass trees sway in the gentle breeze and the flowers just look gorgeous.

Leaves turning

The balance to the lovely whites, yellows and pink of the flowers, the balance to the thousands of shades of green, are the shades of decay. The newly fallen leaves that turn from dark green to a pastel shade before going brown. The bright silver trunks of the gum trees that shed and turns grey and breaks down into a non-descript colour that sits on the forest floor. The bright red leaves that darken and turn to black. All breaks down into a rich black soil that helps the colours grow all over again.

Even though the mountain will be here long here after all of us, it’s not immune to change. The very rocks themselves have to contend with lichen that will leech them to soil. Bit by bit the rocks break down into stones, I know this because I put my feet on them and they slip, causing me to throw my arms out like Jesus on a Friday. The leaves and the bark work with the stones to create a path that is laden with trip hazards and a quick way down, if not to the bottom of the mountain, at least to the bottom of your spine.

That said, you can’t stand or sit, on this looming mountain and not be taken by the whole package. The wind, the sounds, the colours. The smells, the taste on the air, from the smallest noise to the largest rock, every single part of the mountain comes together to deliver an experience that makes me want to come back for more.

Mt Imlay has every reason to loom.

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Sep 08

The Australian Dream written by Stan Grant

It wouldn’t be right to say that I don’t like football. It wouldn’t be right to say that I do like football either. I don’t go out of my way to watch it or participate in it. I don’t have a passing interest in it or really care in the slightest about it. I accept it as part of the culture in Victoria.

Mind you, I don’t really follow any sport, so I’m not singling football out.

When you live in Victoria, it’s pretty hard to escape football. I mostly manage. Apart from those family dinners on a Friday night where the telly comes on after the meal and those of us interested sit around it watching, the rest of us sit at the table and continue our much more interesting chit-chat.

When Michael suggested to me that I might like to go and watch a movie about Adam Goodes, who until recently was guilty of being a football player, I thought perhaps my husband had begun his descent into madness.

Now, I know of Goodes. He was after all an Australian of the Year, even though he was a football player. He been the subject of much media coverage over his stance on racism in Australia football.

I guess he’s an OK bloke, even though he used to play football.

So, anyway, on a cold Melbourne Saturday afternoon, the sort that’s usually reserved for die-hard Richmond fans to go to watch their team play in the mud at Windy Hill, I found myself sitting in a cinema watching strapping young men kick a football around.

The story that unfolded before me was so gut-wrenchingly powerful that at times I had tears rolling down my face.

Here is the story of a man who clearly loves his footy and found himself at the top of the game. He then left it when the focus of others was on the colour of his skin, instead of his ability to kick a football.

Adam Goodes is an Indigenous Australian. During his time on the footy field, he was recognised as a player of note. Played in grandfinals, got medals, you know, the sort of things that mark you as an elite sports person. At the same time, he became a controverisal figure when he refused to accept the casual racism that was being hurled around. As Stan Grant says in the Australian Dream, he was a loud angry aboriginal, nobody likes that. The footy crowd would take to booing Goodes every time he got the ball. This ultimately led to him leaving his much loved game.

Let this sink in. At a football match with tens of thousands of fans, a whole bunch of them boo every time you touch the ball.

I do recall most of this, as it happened. Only because it crosses from football into society. Goodes becomes a topic of conversation outside of football. News bulletins lead with it, newspapers gave it front page, social media lit up. People like me couldn’t miss it.

What I did miss however was the nuance of the story. For this I had to see the movie. It was pretty clear, pretty quickly, that this story wasn’t so much about football. It is about the very essence of racism in Australia.

I don’t think I’m a racist. But how would I know?

I can pick a homophobe for you, because I know what it’s like to hear the casual homophobia in day to day comments. Take this little example from today, as I was trying to write this blog I saw this tweet:

Still not sure? What is a manly hug? Why does he need to give it to another man? Why didn’t he give him a womanly hug? A gay hug? An affectionate hug?

Adams is 80 years old. In his time, you probably didn’t hug men at all, in case it’s seen as gay. If you do have to hug another man, for example, because their wife just died, that’s ok. But you better give them a manly hug. In case people think you’re gay.

Is Adams a homophobe? I have no idea, I’d be surprised, based on his politics. Is this an example of casual homophobia? Yes, I think it is. It’s the sort of language that isn’t needed and seeks to establish himself as a man that doesn’t want to be perceived as gay. As if there’s something wrong with being gay. Of course, if you’ve never been at the end of homophobic language, this would roll off you and you’d find yourself booing me every time I touched the ball.

Have I ever been guilty of casual racism? You bet. Lots of times. At times I’ve been an all out racist. For this I’m sorry, and for all the times I’ll be a racist into the future I hope that someone is there to call it out.

Australian Dream not only tells the story of Goodes, it tackles an issue that so few of us what to hear about. The ingrained racism that is in every part of white Australia. None of us want that racist label, and yet we are so unaccustomed to listening to the voices of those that are impacted by our words. We dismiss their feelings and responses rather than listen to them.

Evidence shows that a young aboriginal person is more likely to kill themselves than their white counterpart. We lock up aboriginal people at a much higher rate than any other group of people. We still won’t let them be acknowledged in the constitution.

Australian Dream looks at racism from the eyes of those being discriminated against.

You need to see it.

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Jul 24

On a bright sunny cloudless day you expect to see your shadow. Just the one. It’s attached to you. We used to play shadow tiggy. If you’re it then you had to tag someone else by jumping on their shadow. It’s easy to twist and bend your shadow to avoid being it.

At night you don’t have a shadow. Sometimes you may see one on a full moon if you happen to be late on a hike and you really want to get to the camping ground. You and your hiking buddy find yourselves strutting down a white sandy bush track with the moon behind you and a long shadow in front of you.

I live in the city, and when I walk home at night, I have lots of shadows. Tonight I noticed my shadows for the first time in years. Street lights line our streets, on main roads there’s lights on both sides. I have a shadow in front, one behind. As I walk the light behind me throws my shadow in front of me, as I walk further away from that light I get taller, well, the shadow does. It’s not long before I’m passing under the next street light and my shadow begins to grow again, the first one so long it stretches out of existence as it fades away.

The lights on the other side of the street cast a shadow to my right. These shadows also grow and shrink, and as I walk past fences and driveways they leap up or fall away.

As the traffic passes me multiple faint shadows quickly appear and disappear, so fleeting they’re barely noticed.

When I was a young lad, 45 years ago, I delivered newspapers in the morning. The Age and The Sun. I’d ride my bike around in the cold dark hours pulling a paper out of the banana box strapped to the carrier on the back of my bike. One handed I would fold the paper on my thigh, holding the handlebar with the other hand. I’d grab the paper in the middle, thump it on my leg to fold, then do the same to fold it once more. I was then able to insert the paper into the letter box and keep riding, so never really stopping. Of course there was no real care and often the front page would be torn when I scraped it on the top of the letter box.

There would be a little distance sometimes between the deliveries, and a game I would play was to get to the next letter box before my shadow disappeared. As the morning was dawning, and it was getting lighter, the street lights would switch off and the shadow would disappear.

It was that strange time pre-dawn when the lights have gone off that I would have no shadow.

That’s a magical time.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Jul 23

The alarm goes off at 5.10a.m. In my early days, it was an alarm clock with bells. Then a clock radio with a buzzer or the radio. Now my alarm is a watch, strapped to my wrist that vibrates. I hit the off button. There’s no snooze. I lay there for a couple of minutes trying to go back to sleep. I can’t. I have to do this.

I throw my legs out from under the doona. I say throw, not glide effortlessly out of bed. My legs are stiff and not so cooperative. The hit the floor and I feel around in the dark for my grandpa slippers.

I have to run, I want to do a 5km run in a couple of weeks for a charity event. I’m out of shape as I tore my calf muscle a few weeks ago and have been getting treatment to help it recover.

David Thwaites from Complete Sports Care has been taking care of me. My time with him normally starts by me standing one-legged on my toes raising myself up and down, he muses and then asks me to lie on the table. He then does this extraordinary process of taking his thumb and sticking them deeply into my calf. I grimace. A lot.

It does the trick, the exercises that he sends me off with and the little jogging that I’ve been doing has prepared me for this mornings effort.

Today, for the first time in weeks, I’m going to run 30 minutes. I’ll jog 10 minutes, rest a minute and then repeat twice more.

It’s 9° outside. I step into the cool darkness and make my way to the running track.

Unlike this time at the other end of the day, when I’m consumed with the noise of a city winding down, it’s quiet.

I can hear my footfalls as I step onto the driveway, and as I walk towards the little track that runs along the creek, I can hear the magpies stirring in the trees, giving a little warble as they begin their day.

A quick-paced walk and the watch vibrates and I start the run.

The wind whistles past my ears, in the old days it’d ruffle my mullet. The next family of magpies begin to stir and I’m surrounded by the delightful sounds of warbles.

As I pass the little pond a thousand frogs ribbit at me and the first traffic noise I hear happens as I pass under the Warrigal Road bridge.

I do a self-diagnosis. The calf muscle is holding up. Heart isn’t jumping out of my chest, breathing within tolerance. A few more minutes and the first 10 are done. The watch vibrates and I walk for a minute.

As I’m walking along the path, a couple of cars pass along the back streets. The headlights glare at me and for all I know they’re driven by ghosts, it’s impossible to see inside to ascertain whether or not a real person is behind the wheel.

Then off again. Up the hill to the Alamein line, then at the top, I turn around and head back the way I came. I’ve made it halfway.

More vibrations, another check of my sore bits – all good – last jog.

Another light comes towards me. It’s dark out here, so joggers wear a head torch. We greet each other in the traditional way of pre-dawn joggers, a nod of the head and a ‘morn’ to each other.

I find myself tiring, looking at my watch, hoping it’s counting down. It is, but it persists on precision and won’t go faster than a second at a time.

One last look I think, 26 seconds. I start to count down in my head.

Finally, the last vibration. I stop and stroll home.

The sky is brightening, or it could be the city lights reflected on the clouds. I don’t know. It’s another hour until the sun actually appears.

Michael and I are running in support of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in a couple of weeks. That’s where I work. We’re raising money for the important work of helping people seeking asylum. Head over to our page and sling us a few dollars.

I make my way up the driveway, thinking that I’ll be ready for Run Melbourne in a couple of weeks.

All the way this morning, I’ve been accompanied by my own footfalls. A wonderful time of the day, the still and quiet. Nothing but my own steps fill my ears.

Jul 15

I used to be able to hear my footsteps when I walked. Now, as I step off the train I can hear the churnning of its motors and the beep-beep of the doors closing. Lots of whooshing as it pulls out of the station to the next stop.

I whip out my phone to check when the next bus is. Sixteen minutes. It’s only a twenty minute walk home, so I’ll do that.

As I start up High Street I become aware of the noise around me. It’s busy peak hour and I spend my walk listening to the sounds around me. The noise of the traffic is overwhelming. Squeaky brakes, noisy engines, motorbikes, truck, buses. All in a hurry to get home.

What a noisy environment we now live in.

I can’t hear the birds settling down for the night, or the kids talking across the road. No low hum of music coming from the houses or even the dribbling of a basketball. Just traffic.

I turn off the High Street and into the quiet little avenue that will take me home. The traffic noise fades into the background. A couple of cars drive past, a lot quieter now on the suburban street.

I hear the faint sound of shouting and the clack of hockey sticks as it hits the ball. As I walk closer to the hockey field and away from the main road the noise becomes more background. I hear the scuffing of shoes as a woman walks past with her dog, I notice that the sound of my own footfall is still inaudible, but the noise from the hockey fields now includes the blowing of whistles, the shuffling of feet and the sound of clapping.

Only a short walk up the driveway now. I hear my keys clink as I take them out of my pocket and a few metres from the door I hear my footsteps.

Sep 08

The white tablecloth starts pristine, covering and protecting the tabletop. The family gathers around it to drink and eat. Breadcrumbs spread around as the loaf is cut and they gently coached into little piles to be swept away.

Main course and the cloth endures a splash of water, a piece of chicken skin and a sneaky wipe of a greasy palm.

The family ebbs and flows as does the conversation, cryptocurrency, prime ministers, weather. They all ebb and flow around the table. The main course is done, and the table arises, some head off to the TV for the Friday night footy match, others to the kitchen to deal with the remnants of the meal, stragglers sit around as the table is cleared, glasses removed, plates and cutlery stacked and carried off the kitchen.

There’s a respectable time before the final course appears. The time between sittings is not something that can be solved with a mathematical formula. It must wait until the newspapers have been flicked through, mobile phones have been checked and new apps downloaded. The kettle boils, coffee is brewed, tea-bags are dangled, and a fruitcake, a crumble and choc chip biscuits appear. Nobody needs to be called; the family knows that the magic sweet spot of dessert has arrived. As the crumble is put into bowls and passed around, milk and sugar added to the hot drinks a packet of Tim Tams appear on the table.

There’s only five left. Tim Tams come in a packet of 11, not 12, not 10. 11. The outer packaging is stripped and the five tempting biscuits sit on one end of the inner hull. Tempting those around the table.

The final ritual of the evening begins. Light-hearted chat while eating the sweet treats.

Then there’s one left.

The lone Tim Tam has the gaze of the table. Silence as all eyes are upon it. Who will break the convention and eat it?

Then the question and the offers.
“Are you going to eat it?”
“You have the last one.”
“That has your name on it.”

The final call is the forlorn question, “What’s so important about that Tim Tam?”

Then like a cold, soggy tea-bag the Tim Tam is forgotten.

The table breaks, everything is whisked away. Good nights are said, kisses exchanged. Lights dimmed.

All that’s left is a few crumbs, a couple of spills and the lone Tim Tam on the white tablecloth.

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