A Grand Day Off

ANZAC Day 2006

Well, I just spent a quite enjoyable ANZAC Day trussing up wires, sorting recycling and doing long delayed washing up. If you have to go back to work after a holiday, then working a single day then having a public holiday is definitely the way to do it.

Now, there’s at least three things I should write about today – the sleep study, the date on Friday night (which went pretty well I think), and high tea on Saturday (please don’t ask) – but it’s been a long day and I only have so much energy. So I’ll cover what I got up to today and write about them tomorrow. Or maybe Thursday. Or Friday 😀

So, today.

Today was of course ANZAC Day. For years I’ve been saying I’ll go to a Dawn Service. I intended to go to the local one (just down the road) last year, but this didn’t actually happen as I woke up that morning with the worst migraine I’ve had in over a decade. This year the same plan was almost foiled by the fact that I lost the bit of paper saying when the service actually was. Now, if I was thinking straight I would have just looked up when dawn was – you know, Dawn Service? But instead I went with a vague memory of 5:20am and hence set my alarm for 4:00.

I got down to Halliday Park at 4:45. As it turned out the service was at 6:00.

This wasn’t as bad as it sounds. There’s something pretty cool about having a park all to yourself early in the morning (hmmm, that sounds a bit suss doesn’t it? :D) and I got to watch everyone arrive and set up – all of the back stage stuff you normally miss. Lots of muffled up figures walking around, flashing torches and talking in low voices, and the local cadet unit marching round the oval and practicing their manouvers in the pitchy dark. And above it all the crescent moon was riding high – the dark portion spectacularly lit up with Earthshine – with Venus burning like a flake of magnesium just on top. It had been a wet night and there were a few brief showers, but as the dawn got closer it all cleared up. So all together it was a pretty nice way to spend an hour.

By the time things got underway – just as the sky was lightening – about 300 people had turned up. The service went off without a hitch – unless you count a few bum notes during the Last Post which is virtually traditional at these smaller services. The surprising thing is how short the service really is – you tend to forget the simplicity of it when you don’t go for a few years. The cadets and/or soldiers march in and take up their positions, the wreaths are layed around the memorial, the Ode (the fourth stanza of For the Fallen) is read, and the Last Post is played while the flag is lowered to half mast. Then it’s over. We got a short speech about the Gallipoli landings from the head of the local RSL and that was it, unless you wanted to hang around for the sausage sizzle. I decided against it – queuing for sausages with 299 other people isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. So I walked back home – all done by 6:50.

I spent the rest of the day playing Civ III, listening to JJJ, arranging the gorgon’s hair tangle of wires behind the computer so they’re no longer a tripping/strangling hazard, sorting out the recycling and doing the washing up that I couldn’t do all last week due to the water problem. Oh, I also watched an episode of Firefly. There’s only two left now, I’m stretching them out by watching epsiodes I’ve already watched with commentary, but sooner or later I’m going to have to watch the last ones. Boo!

Anyway given that I was up at 4:00 it’s been a long day and I’ll be having an early night, so I’ll cut this short. Expect details of the Sleep Study, date and other important things soon.

Oh, before I go though I thought I’d take the opportunity to do something ANZACy and post the lyrics to the Herd’s cover of Redgum’s I was only 19. They did it for JJJ’s “Like a Version” last year and it’s been going absolutely nuts for them ever since – they’ve recently done a studio version. I’ve had the lyrics kicking around for quite a while because I was particularly impressed with their rewrite – a hip-hop version of a song needs a lot more syllables – and I was always intending to post them as soon as I figured out a few problematic bits. Thanks to the aforementioned studio version I now have them, so today seems appropriate.

(By the way, these are the words of the version they performed live on Like a Version. The studio recording is a bit different, but I prefer the rawness of the original)

I WAS ONLY 19 – The Herd

Mum, Dad and Denny were some amongst many,
Who turned up to see the passing out parade at Pukapunyal,
Seemed every man and his mongrel watched cadets stumble,
On the long march to the Viet jungle,
“Oh Christ” I mumbled as I drew that card,
And my mates came to slap me on the back with due regard,
We were the 6th battalion and the next to tour,
We did Canundra and Shoalwater before we left, rest assured,

Seems half of Townsville turned out to see us leave,
And they lined the footpaths as we marched to the quay,
The papers wrote it up like you would not believe,
But we were looking to the future for a fast reprieve,
The newspaper clippings show us young, strong and clean,
Rockers, slouch hats, slung SLRs and greens,
God help me – I was only 19,

From Vung-Tau with black helicopters,
The chinook pilots seemed relieved at Nui Dat when they dropped us,
Feels like months running on and off landing pads,
Letters to Dad cause it’s like, man, he’s sad,
But he can’t see the tents that we call home,
Cans of VB and pinups on the lockers of chicks off TV,
The noise and mosquitos and the heat surprising,
Like the first time you see an agent orange horizon,

So please can you tell me doctor,
Why I still can’t get to sleep?
The scars left in me,
Night time’s just a jungle dark,
And a barking M-16,
Keeps saying ‘Rest in Peace’,
What the hell’s this rash that comes and goes?
Don’t s’pose you can tell me what that means?
God help me – I was only 19,

Sent off on a four week long operation,
Where every single step could be your last one,
On two legs it was a sort of living hell,
Fallin’ with the shells, war within yourself,
But you wouldn’t let your mates down ’till they had you dusted off,
So you closed your eyes and thought of something else,
Then someone yelled ‘Contact!’
Another bloke swore,
We hooked in for hours and a god all mighty roar,
Then Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon,
God help me – he was goin’ home in June,

And I can still see Frank with a can in his hand,
36 hour leave in the bar at the Grand,
I can still hear Frank – a screaming mess,
Of bleeding flesh, couldn’t retrieve his legs,
Yeah, the ANZAC legend neglected to mention,
The mud, the fear, the blood, the tears, the tension,
Dad’s recollection, beyond comprehension,
Didn’t seem quite real until we were sent in,
The chaos and confusion the fire and steel,
Hot shrapnel in my back I didn’t even feel,
God help me – I was only 19,

So please can you tell me doctor,
Why I can’t get to sleep?
I can’t hardly eat?
And the sound of the channel seven chopper still chills me,
To my feet, still fuels my grief,
And what’s this rash that comes and goes,
Like the dreams? Can tell me what that means?
God help me – I was only 19,

Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Pukapunyal,It was a long march from cadetsThe 6th battalion was the next to tour,And it was me who drew the card,We did Canundra and Shoalwater before we left,So please can you tell me doctor,Why I can’t get to sleep?I can’t hardly eat?And the sound of the channel seven chopper still chills me,To my feet, it still fuels my grief,And what’s this rash that comes and goes,Like the dreams? Can tell me what that means?God help me – I was only 19,

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