Saturday, 25 April 2015

V is for Veterans — a personal apology

This month I’m part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge (check out who else is here). I’m writing a series of 26 letters, each of a different type/genre/style, inspired by the letters of the alphabet. 

Ironically, today is V. I say ironically, because today is also ANZAC Day (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) and the centenary of the dawn landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula of the four infantry battalions of the 3rd Brigade, First Australian Division at a place now called Anzac Cove — a place where young men massacred each other.

In 1915, Australia had only been a nation for 14 years. Our population was fewer than 5 million. Of them, almost 500,000 young men enlisted to fight under their new flag in World War 1— 61,5000 died. 

On 25 April, commemoration services are held at dawn to honour our veterans.

Dear Veterans of Australia,
I owe each and every one of you an apology — one that’s been a long while coming — and today is the perfect time.
Dawn, Cowes foreshore. 25/04/2015
I think I must have been about eighteen, for it was early in my university career. We were seated around the family dinner table — for some reason I remember that the cloth that night was orange. I don’t remember what we had eaten, but my father and I were engaged in a discussion as we so often were, especially after he had had a couple of glasses of red.  It was Anzac Day.
Incited by the swagger of youth and my newfound independence, I declared that I thought it was stupid to have a public holiday to glorify war. War brings devastation and brutality. War is evil. It makes no sense to give everyone a holiday to watch old blokes march down our streets wearing medals. And even less sense to applaud them for having been killers and accomplices of killers. Anzac Day is nothing but an excuse for old codgers to have a booze-up. We need to look to the future, not aggrandize the mistakes of the past.
Dad’s reaction was explosive, ‘Don’t be so bloody stupid. Honouring our armed forces is not the same as glorifying war, Wendy. Not the same thing at all.’
I’m sure he went on to explain what he meant, but I recall nothing else. I feel certain I would’ve been sufficiently arrogant to argue and contradict him, but most probably I just stopped listening.
Well, several decades later, I finally understand what Dad meant.
For the past few years, I’ve worked as a volunteer at the National Vietnam Veterans Museum (NVVM) — a collection begun by a veteran that has grown to a museum big enough to fill an aeroplane hangar,almost completely run by volunteers. I have become, by default, the closest thing NVVM has to a curator, and the spirit of the place now dwells deep within my soul.

Many of my colleagues are, themselves, veterans of that ten-year conflict, some conscripted to go and fight a guerrilla war in a country they knew nothing about. A war that divided Australia politically. They served, often not by choice, then returned to be ignored by their nation, or worse, held in contempt. 

These amazing men have a connection that only shared experience can forge. And the things they shared were often unspeakable. ..unimaginable. They are humble, mostly softly spoken, and all deeply affected by their intimate knowledge of the truths about warfare. Like most veterans, there is no bravado. Most are reticent to speak of what they endured.
Through them, and the stories I now seek to preserve for future Australians, I have come to see the vast gulf that lies between glorifying war and honouring our veterans.
I am truly sorry for my brash disregard of the significance of Anzac Day and the disrespect I showed all veterans. I hope you can forgive me.

Song of the Day: Redgum: I Was Only Nineteen (1983) 

A special request from me to my non-Aussies visitors and friends, and anyone unfamiliar with it, to watch and listen this through to the end. Aussies in Vietnam 1962–1972

I can't hear it without crying.

Lest we forget.

Question of the day : What do you think about commemoration days?

Friday, 24 April 2015

U is for Universe — An official notification

Dear Universe,
I know we’re in contact every day, but somehow I felt that I needed to put this in writing to make it more formal. This is important, and you know how much I like things to be set in stone.

Can you believe what a mess people have made? They’ve only existed for a millisecond and already they have managed to clag up their planet with garbage and excess. They poisoned the air and waters but have the audacity to act surprised when the fish are chockfull of mercury. Some days it’s almost impossible to see them through the haze and muck, yet they whinge that their weather patterns seem to be changing. And I simply cannot believe they took that line about ‘salt of the earth’ so far out of context that now they’ve created huge tracts of infertile ground. I expected by now that they’d know how to feed themselves.

Are they working out how to reverse their folly and put their planet back to rights?  Not really. Yet they’re still in love with the idea of finding out what’s beyond it, shoving aside their space junk searching for another world. One is not enough.

Frankly, I’m sick of their bickering and selfishness. They’ve found ways to make each other miserable from the word go; some even claim that I approve of their obscene cruelty. To be brutally honest, I’m over it. Tired.  It’s been a good long while since that day of rest and I need a break.

Therefore, this letter is to notify you that I’m going to take a vacation: somewhere peaceful, without the constant clamour. I’ll know if anyone really needs me, but if I don’t get some time away from all the shouting fools, I fear I may reach the point of no return.  

So for a while, please keep turning without me,

 Song of the Day: Well I Wonder, The Smiths 1984

 Question of the Day: Too much?



Thursday, 23 April 2015

T is for Teens — a letter of advice

You guys,

I don’t wanna  like go all emo on you, but really? I mean, seriously, I’m one-hundred percent not even joking when I say you need to get a grip. 

You, like literally kill me thinking you’re all that and then some with your acronyms and your full-on accusations that me and my peeps is epic fail.  As if. That’s just busted. Teens been hatin’ on old dudes forevs.  And OMG you gotta be cray cray  if you think your so-totally-last-minute sayings are gonna ever hang with such bitchen dudes as  groovy, cool, ace and man in the Slang Hall of Fame. You gotta be trippin’ dudes. Old school rocks. Bam.

As for fashion? Well, I’m not gonna get up in your grill about that. I was a teen in the 70s. My bad. But you gotta totally be kidding about the whole Larry Lowpants look.

And hey, I sorta get the deal with selfies, coz the entire universe-type-thing literally revolves around youse all. Natch. But guys, YOLO. No. Seriously. You really do OLO. There’s a lot to be said for looking directly at things…like with your actual eyes. K?

Technology and change #sweet  We live in amazing times. But pah-leeezz — try not to be all like uh-huh so what's next? You're getting so sucked in by the FoMo  that you really are Mo. You're killing me. Literally. Dead. #WTF#wakeup#smelltheroses

So I guess that's it from me. Except that I need you to know that I really truly love you. BAE
ps #tidy your room

Song of the Day: I was going to go with Hip to be Square but I kept getting American Psycho flashbacks, so instead of that let's get down and funky and go clean out of sight with Stevie — Uptight (1965)

Question of the Day: So what do you think? ...Anyone? ...Anyone? Bueller? ...Bueller?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

S is for Sisters — a letter to someone imaginary

I don't have a sister, just an older brother... but sometimes I've wished it was different...

Dearest adored sister I’ve never had,

I’m not sure what has moved me to write to you, it’s something I’ve never done before when perhaps I should have. We have drifted apart, but somehow, as I head into the realms of the well-and-truly- middle-aged, you have found your way back to me.

As a child, I called you Janiece. Sorry. I think it was fashionable in the sixties. And such a departure from the storybook good-girl name Wendy I was saddled with.  Like my real-life much older cousin, you had fashionably bouffant hair and glamorous shimmering eye-shadow.  Of course, you adored me. We’d giggle as you shared secrets about the world of grown-up girls. We listened to The Beatles and you styled me up just like you. Whenever I drew you, it was in an alluringly fitted mermaid gown, a dramatic fish-tail affair that a pudgy child like me could never wear.

In my teen years, you became Bernadette. I forget exactly what I’d been reading, but you can bet your name was inspired by something romantic, probably set in Victorian England. Your age shifted too. I don’t mean you aged with me, quite the reverse; you grew younger. You were the little sister who looked up to me and admired my many talents and qualities. Nothing like my brother. You never teased or provoked me, never made fun of me. Around you I felt confident and valued. You celebrated my achievements. Around you I mattered. I had worth.

In the decades since, at university and in my career, you have floated in and out of my thoughts as a memory, a ghost from a dream. Until now. Now, you are back… nameless… formless… but none-the-less… back. Only now I feel you as an absence. 

I do not care about your age. Or your fashion sense.  I long for the bond of our shared experience—so different from that I have with my brother—for close conversations and soul-sharing companionship. With age, and without the daily contact of a workplace, so many friendships drop away. I find myself with time and space, but fewer people. I find myself falling. My darling sister I’ve never had, I know you’d catch me.

Ever yours,


 Song of the Day: The Long and Winding Road (Take 18), The Beatles—               31 January 1969

Question of the Day: Do you ever long for someone you've never known?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

R is for Romance — an invitation

During April, I’m taking part in the A-Z Blogging Challenge (check out who else is here). And I decided that my theme would be letters inspired by the letters of the alphabet. 

Well, here I am at R, and so far every letter has been a different type/genre/style, but they do seem to be getting shorter as the month progresses. I promise tomorrow's will be something somewhat more substantial.


 Song of the Day:  The Righteous Brothers, You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling (1965) —accompanied by Tiny Tom in Top Gun (1986)

Question of the Day:  Romance: How do you keep it alive?