A New England

People ask me when will you grow up to be a man? But all the girls I loved at school are already pushing prams.

So, on Saturday night it was my 20 year high school reunion.

I didn’t go to the 10th year reunion. I was – as blog entries from that far off era will attest – still bitter and twisted out of shape about the less enjoyable aspects of my high school career. But I’ve mellowed out over the last decade and decided to put in an appearance at the Rose and Crown in Guildford at 7:00 in the evening to see what could be seen.

As it turned out, what could be seen was a really good turn out, including in particular my old friend Mark who hasn’t been in Perth for a good five years. Justin also turned up (after I phoned him on the Friday to remind him it was on) and I divided the evening between lurking with them and wandering out to inveigle my way into various conversations and catch ups.

It was a really good night. Our principal Mr Mulchay turned up for a while, as did chemistry teacher Mr Sorge. About half the people looked the same – with some extra weight, a few wrinkles round the eyes and (for the guys) less hair (apart from Daniel who had a beard Ned Kelly would be proud of). The rest looked like complete strangers, but a good half of those were identifiable after comparing nametags (I had no idea who the hell the remaining 25% were, but that’s the way it goes I guess ;))

Particularly gratifying from my viewpoint was catching up with Renee, who’d been one of the main organisers of the event. She was a major part of my high school experience in that she was the most popular and beautiful girl in the year to pay me any attention at all. I was constantly half in love with her and remember being more or less struck dumb in her presence, but she apparently remembers me as being really smart and funny, and us sitting together at the back of the room in English with me continually making her laugh. So that’s nice to get another perspective on 🙂

She’d also read the Tales of the Geek Underclass at some point (I suspect due to Ryan’s pimping it on Facebook), thought they were great and demanded that I write more. As my old PCG associate Lincoln also complemented them I probably shall.

It was also nice when later in the night she wandered over to the table I’d sat down at (my feet were killing me at that point – one of the perils of letting yourself age for twenty years) put her arm around me and repeatedly told everyone “I love this guy!”. I must admit she was a bit worse the wear for drink at that point, but it still had the tiny ghost of 17 year old me doing cartwheels somewhere deep in my soul ;). As one of the major social hubs of the event her presence summoned a wide variety of people to the table and that same tiny ghost was overawed at hanging with all the cool kids for a while – including Sherri and Rebecca which along with Renee made up a two thirds reunion of my year 10 English table.

I caught up with plenty of other people too. One person I was particularly happy to see was the girl (I suppose I should really say woman shouldn’t I?) I had a major crush on all through year 12. In contrast to most of the rest of the attendees she hadn’t changed a bit – I recognised her immediately, and was surprised to find my heart briefly skipping a beat when I did so.

She also had exactly the same laugh, which – again to my surprise – made me come over all… well I can’t think of a suitable adjective, but you know how it feels when you hear someone you’re crazy about laugh. It took me back for a moment to when I was an awkward, nerdy 17 year old still trying to figure out the world – as opposed to an awkward nerdy 37 year old beaten down by it. That alone was worth the admission cost.

(Of course, even if I were to mistake those emotional echoes for anything real, she – like most of my former classmates – is married with a couple of kids. She seems to be doing really well for herself, which is the best you can really wish for anyone.)

The evening went on, with the crowd thinning out, until midnight, when the Rose and Crown staff explained that they’d really prefer to close. Someone who I recognised and had spoken to earlier in the night but whose name has escaped me took it on himself to climb up on a table and draw the night to a conclusion with three cheers for the organisers, and a call for those who wanted to keep partying to reconvene at the Casino. I was so tired by that point that I was becoming positively gregarious, so after some goodbyes (including hugs from Renee and Rayanne who… well, any guy who was there would agree that she certainly changed… I mean, wow!) got a lift home with Justin, with a stop off at Alfred’s kitchen on the way.

It was a great night, but in the end there was a little touch of melancholy. For one evening we were again those bright, brilliant, amazing kids of twenty years ago with our whole lives ahead of us. I think that’s why the night went on so long – if our 37 year old bodies would have held out and the Rose and Crown stayed open I think we would have stayed till the sun came up, just to try and hold on to who we used to be. But reality calls and we had to go back to our lives and on our separate ways. I suppose that’s always the way it is with reunions. You can’t go back, and – in the clear light of day – would you really want to? One night is enough.

That said, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Roll on 2023!

The Tale Grows in the Telling

Back when I was in high school my friends told me of a horrible, horrible movie they’d seen, which involved people riding around on motorcycles (called “Death Machines”) and fighting with ridiculous oversized swords (called “whistlers” – apparently because they whistled). The pivotal scene was a duel between two of these freaks, the dialogue of which apparently went…

SHALL WE DUEL WITH DEATH MACHINES?!

Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnno.

WITH WHISTLERS?!

….I’ll drink to that.

Today I finally got around to tracking this movie, and the scene (at 5 minutes in). Inevitably it only has a vague resemblance to our memetic verison, but it’s still worth a laugh…

‘K I’m going to bed now.

30 Years and No Regrets

It’s 30 years since the release of first ever commercially available CD – a reissue of Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, which went on sale on October 1 1982.

The first CD I ever bought was the single of You Am I’s Soldiers.

The first full album was Dire Straits’ On Every Street.

I stand by both purchases.

Good Teachers/Bad Teachers

The discussion concerning last week’s post about my days back at primary school seems to have affected my brain, as I had another dream about them the other night.

I was back in year six, and working – in class – on an essay about some book. The problem was that I wasn’t myself from year six, I was myself from the modern day thrown back in time, and hence my knowledge of the book in question was very vague, it being over twenty years since I’d actually read it.

On the plus side, I’d managed to bring a copy of my finished essay – which, I’m pleased to report, had got an A – back with me, so all I had to do was copy it out. The teacher however, who was not my actual year 6 teacher Mr Murphy (arguably the best teacher I ever had) but my year 7 teacher Mrs M (arguably the worst teacher I’ve ever had) was patrolling around the classroom and would have spotted me. So I was stuck in the position of shooting furtive glances at the finished document while racking my brain for anything I could remember of the text to write about.

But that wasn’t all. I really didn’t want to be writing the essay at all, because there was a big storm due to hit that night. The Weather Bureau had classed it as a category one cyclone, but with the benefit of hindsight I knew that it was actually going to be a category three, and that the inadequate warning would lead to widespread destruction (including ripping the roof off the school) and over 100 deaths across the city. I was itching to get out and warn people, but instead was stuck trying to write this damned essay, and not get in even more trouble with Mrs M than I habitually was.

It was really rather stressful.

Eventually I got out of class and managed to warn (of all people)  Dr Christopher Green who promised to take care of it.

In the words of Peter Venkman “Hairless pets….. weird”.

I’ve often wondered about why I had such a problem with Mrs M (I’m referring to her pseudonymously both because she might still be teaching and while I can remember how to pronounce her name, I’m damned if I can spell it). There were, I believe, a number of factors, one of the most important of which being that, even at the age of 12, I was much smarter than her.

That sounds unbelievably arrogant, I know, but bear with me.

In all honesty, in terms of just raw processing power, I believe that my brain was a good smack faster than hers. Hell, my brain is a good smack faster than most people’s, but that’s not anything to be particularly proud about – it’s just natural genetic variation. More importantly I was much more knowledgeable about a much wider range of subjects that she was – her general knowledge about the world appeared pretty limited which I feel is a major flaw in any teacher, let alone a primary school one who is the only instructor a bunch of young minds will have for an entire year.

Now, a good teacher, faced with a student who can out-think them and displays a wealth of knowledge, will see an opportunity. This was the case with all the teachers I’d had up to year 7 – especially with Mr Murphy in year 6. I was encouraged to speak up in class, and if I contradicted what the teacher was saying, they’d hear me out. Mrs M on the other hand seemed to view this kind of behavior as a threat to her authority, and a student who kept doing it as a troublemaker.

For example – in year 6 we were set a humerous poem to read about ptarmigans, in which every initial letter ‘t’ was replaced with ‘pt’. Mr Murphy read the poem out to the class, and mentioned that the author had obviously ‘made up’ an animal called a ptarmigan in order to write the poem. I put my hand up and pointed out that this was wrong, and that the ptarmigan was a kind of arctic bird. Mr Murphy asked me how I knew this, and I gave my standard answer that I’d read it in a book we had at home.

Rather than take this correction at face value, he re-stated that he was sure the ptarmigan was fictional, but told me that I had permission to go to the school library and bring him back a book proving the existence of such a creature. So, I left the class, ducked across to the library, grabbed the relevant volume of the encyclopedia, located the entry for ‘ptarmigan’ and brought it back to him.

Rather than be annoyed, Mr Murphy told the class that he was wrong, and that you should never be ashamed to admit such when presented with proof. I took the book back to the library and we got on with analysing the poem.

This kind of thing was pretty standard for my education up until year 7 – in retrospect I was probably rather spoiled by it. With Mrs M however any attempt to contradict  her was met with barely concealed hostility. Her attitude appeared to be one of “I am the teacher, you are the student, I know all, you know nothing”, and thus any student who tried to correct her was being willfully disruptive and should be punished.

It also didn’t help that she was very religious. I was also very religious – I remained so well into my teenaged years – but I followed a very free-wheeling, easy-going, inclusive version of Catholicism, whereas Mrs M seemed to advocate a straight down the line, exactly what the Pope says version. A student from the year above us for instance was praised often and effusively for not only shaking hands with the Pope during his visit in 1986, but for throwing a tantrum in the local video shop when they stocked The Last Temptation of Christ. She was also a believer in the most unlikely of signs and miracles – the year before I had her she’d gone on a pilgrimage to Međugorje and repeatedly claimed that a photo she’d taken of the hill where the BVM allegedly appeared showed a mysterious glow (she kept promising to bring the photo in to show us, but never did). When a TV current affairs show filled in a slow news day with a piece about peoples’ cheap rosary bead sets turning to gold, she came in the next day claiming that her set had undergone the same transformation – but insisted we not tell anyone lest they think she was crazy. I wasn’t shy about sharing my religious opinions, and the difference between our views appeared to make her regard me as not just a troublemaker, but as a potential victim of diabolical obsession.

So, this combination of a smart, previously-indulged, autistic kid and an authoritative, not-quite-as-smart-as-she-ideally-should-have-been teacher resulted in a rather unpleasant and traumatic year of schooling. The stress of the situation led to my developing migraine headaches, which I still occasionally suffer from. My previously spotless academic and behavioral record started to show blemishes – although the fact that the rest of the staff regarded me as a fantastic student (and, I suspect, Mrs M as a bit of a nut) prevented any consequences of this outside of her classroom. I still managed to graduate as second in the year and happily moved on to high school, where a whole new round of traumatic experiences awaited…

I Dream of Nikki

Dreams are weird.

Back in primary school, in year seven, I sat next to a girl named Nicole Mooney. I couldn’t say that we were actually friends, but, as I recall it, we got on fairly well – or at least as well as a 12 year old boy and girl actually can. We had a little routine we’d engage in, in which she’d claim that I’d drive a Saint to sin, and I’d claim that she’d drive a man to drink. We’d sit there muttering “Saint to sin!”, “Man to drink!” back and forth to each other until the teacher yelled at us to shut up.

At the end of the year we left primary school and moved on to the different high schools. I’ve haven’t seen her, or even heard tell of her since.

But here’s the weird thing – I often dream about her.

Not, I hasten to add, in any creepy kind of way – she just has a habit of turning up as a bit player in whatever nonsensical carryings on are going on in my sleeping brain. Often she’ll be accompanied by a mixed cast of people I knew in high school, but she’s the only person there from primary school. Weird.

I have no idea what, if anything, this means. Logic tells me dream-version-Nicole is nothing but a glitching neuron buried deep in my cerebral cortex. But every time I wake up with her in my head I can’t help but wonder what she’s doing these days, and if she ever dreams about me.

I was an 11 Year Old Idiot

Hundreds of people were killed and many more are dying of cancer.

Insightful analysis of the Cherbonal Disaster...
Insightful analysis of the Cherbonal Disaster...

Back in 1986 it was my primary school’s 50th anniversary.  To celebrate this event, all the students wrote an essay to be placed in a time capsule to be opened on the 75th anniversary.

Which was last Sunday.

So, I got to read a letter from my 11 year old self – turns out, I was an idiot! ;D

TIME CAPSULE 1986

Hi, my name is [REDACTED]. Im 11 years old and I have blond hair lots of frecles big feet. Im the 3rd smallest in the class (Belinda [unreadable] the smallest) and I collect stamps, soft toys, chip bukets, rocks and budgie feathers I have 4 pets two fish one bird and a dog.

This year is the Internationale Year of Peace (1 singn for the international year of peace) And Pope John Paul the second is coming to Pperth. Hes having a big mass on the thirtyieth of november, Im going.

Earlier this year we could see Hallys comet and at 1oclock in the morning we got up to see it (0100 Hours on the 24 hour clock) it looks like picture two.

This year the space shuttle columbia blew up (3) and so did the cherbonal nuclear reactor (4). Hundreds of people were killed and many more are dying of cancer.

Humanoids!
Humanoids!

I think In 2011 I think (in School) everyone will have a computer and the teachers will be humanoids. You do all your work on your a computer and it gets printed out on the printer. For sport you turn your computer to remot control and move the ball by it. Everyone has a chemistry set and constant chemical supplies and you can learn how to make a micro chip.

flife would be fun.

What’d I tell you? An idiot. Although at least I was correct about the teachers being humanoids 😀

The various numbers were supposed to reference a sheet full of hand drawn pictures, but I ruined my first try and didn’t get a new one done in time. That’s always kind of weighed on my mind – perhaps I should draw one now and take it up to the school as a replacement…

Ghosts and Grunts

Extraorrrrrrrdinary tales of the undead

Many years ago, when I was in primary school, there was a book in the school library that caused a bit of a stir. It was a collection of (allegedly) true Australian ghost stories.

I can’t recall much about the contents. It probably included all the usual suspects such as Frederici at the Princess Theatre and Fisher’s ghost. But there was one chapter that started up a whole load of trouble – one about a bunch of quite terrifying events alleged to have occurred to a bunch of kids on a school camp at the Old York Hospital.

This caused quite a ruckuss. It was all anyone would talk about. In creative writing class, all anyone would write were stories about ghosts and (for some reason) ninjas and kung-fu on school camping trips to the Old York Hospital. The situation got so bad that the year seven school camp was cancelled out of fear that the students would run off to go ghost hunting (or possibly ninja hunting). The fact that it was a fairly conservative Catholic primary school with a dim view of all things “occult” probably didn’t help matters either – I think the book eventually vanished from the shelves never to be seen again before the whole thing eventually died down.

It did however leave me with a lifelong curiosity about the old hospital, and when a photographer on Flickr got in touch with me this week about the old Castle Fun Park in Mandurah, and I noticed some photos of the hospital in her photostream, I decided to do some research about the story I remembered as a kid. And I found the motherload!

First up I located a lengthy article about the events at the old hospital by one Miriam Howard-Wright. The article was published in a magazine, but I strongly suspect that the book that caused such a stir so many years ago was written by her, with the article reworked into the notorious York chapter.

I also found a fantastic old documentary about Australian hauntings up on YouTube. Broadcast in the 1980s it very likely sparked the Old-York-Hospital mania I remember so well. The video transfer is a bit off, and it’s heavily infused with a rather 1970s “the paranormal is now a serious subject of scientific enquiry” vibe, but it’s still a damn good watch. One of the most entertaining aspects of it is actually the accents – the narrator appears to be English (presumably on the basis that no one could possibly take a documentary narrated by an Australian seriously) and there are a couple of examples of the old “refined” Australian accent which is now nearing extinction (such as the woman at the info centre in the Rocks). The sheer preponderance of cigarettes also shows how much the country’s changed in the last 30 years.

Finally I stumbled over another documentary, this one from 2001, about Australia’s “Most Haunted Town” (apparently Kapunda). It’s hosted by Warrick Moss, who made his mark in the field by hosting 90s paranormal infotainment classic The Extraorrrrdinary (you have to say it like that – it’s the way he did it). It’s nothing particularly ground-breaking, but gets my vote for the second half, which consists almost wholly of shaky-cam, infra-red footage of Moss stumbling around in the dark, grunting (and swearing). Now that’s entertainment!

One of these days I’ll make it to York…

Dolphins? Pah!

Dolphins are seriously overrated.

Just what is the big deal with dolphins?

Everywhere I turn, everyone seems to love dolphins. See the dolphins! tourism ads proclaim. Meet the dolphins! Swim with the dolphins! Swim with the WILD dolphins! Everyone seems to go completely gaga over the damn things.

Well, here’s the thing. Dolphins are seriously overrated.

I’ve met the dolphins. I’ve met the wild dolphins. And they completely failed to impress me in any way.

For many years Australia’s premiere site for communing with wild dolphins was Monkey Mia right here in WA. There are plenty of other places to see dolphins these days, but that was the first place where wild dolphins started coming into the beach and begging for food. It’s still a major tourist draw, despite being in the middle of nowhere, and we stopped off there to meet the dolphins on a family trip back when I was in high school.

And we did meet the dolphins. Or at least the dolphin, as only one turned up. In the midst of a big crowd of tourists we waded waist deep into the ocean and saw the dolphin. We saw the dolphin, we touched the dolphin, we listened to a lecture about the dolphin courtesy of the ranger minding the dolphin, a few randomly selected folk fed fish to the dolphin, the dolphin bit my brother, then got bored and swam away, and we waded out of the ocean.

That was it. No great revelation. No amazing sense of joy, wonder and communication with another intelligent being – just standing around in cold, salty water prodding at something that could have been a wetsuit full of custard for all the profundity it provided.

We returned to Monkey Mia a few years later with my Aunt who was out from the UK and wanted to meet the dolphins. We sat around on the beach until the dolphins arrived and everyone stampeded down to the water – everyone except me that was, as I was reading a rather good book and couldn’t see the point in putting it down to go and stand in the water, gawking at something rather dull that I’d had my fill of the last time.

Everyone was wildly concerned. Didn’t I want to see the dolphins they asked? Was I alright? Was I feeling ill? Was I – my Aunt asked quietly to spare me any embarrassment – scared of the dolphins? No, I explained. I was fine, I’d just seen the dolphins before and didn’t feel that I needed to see them again.

They all looked at me as if I was dangerously insane, but then the lure of the dolphins proved too much and they scurried down to the water, leaving me to my book, which was far more interesting than any cetacean could ever be.

Now, pinnidpeds – particularly the otariidae – I have time for. They’re smart, playful and entertaining, and you can interact with them without getting wet (well, too wet). They have personalities. But dolphins… dolphins are just dull, and fail to excite me.

Read into that what you will – if that is, you have any time for reading while there are dolphins around.

Old East Perth

Old photos

I’ve started work on a major cleaning project – basically going through everything I possess and deciding what I can either throw away, give away or sell. It’s long term, but so far I’ve spent some time doing it every day since Wednesday, so maybe I’ll be able to keep at it long enough to have a unit that I won’t be ashamed to show to guests.

Some good has come of the project already however, in that I’ve found a long lost set of photos (yes, actual physical photos!) recording the state of East Perth Power Station and surrounds back in the mid 90s – right at the start of the the Graham Farmer Freeway and East Perth Redevelopment schemes. I knew that I had them – it could be argued that they record my first attempt at urban exploration – but I had no idea where they were, so it was fantastic to stumble over them.

I’ve spent the afternoon scanning the most interesting 17 in and posting them to my Flickr stream, so head over and take a look.

It may have been called “Adam 1985” or something…

Televisual Memories

Yes, yes, happy new arbitrary point in the earth’s orbit and all that. I have more important things to talk about. Like TV.

(If I were running things then the year would start/end at a solstice or equinox or something. You know, a date that means something. Hrumph.)

Anyway, I remembered a TV show the other day that I haven’t thought of for years. The trouble is I don’t know the name of it, and can only remember a few fragments of plot. This is driving me nuts so I thought I’d start off the new year by putting all the details I can remember about it up online, thus making it someone else’s problem.

It was a live action show. I have a vague suspicion that it was made somewhere in Europe, and dubbed into English – or at least it was filmed in English but in association with a French or Belgian or Dutch (or maybe German) TV network. The plot (insofar as I remember it) was that at some point in the future the world is threatened. You see, in the future everyone wanders around in white robes in a big white building, listening to a super intelligent computer – which appears to be nothing more than a large perspex cube. This computer predicts that some kind of cataclysm is going to occur – a comet, or a planet or an asteroid is going to collide with the earth. Oy gevalt!

Now, the super civilisation of the future is based around the discoveries of a brilliant scientist who was born in the 20th century. In his memoirs he mentioned that he once developed a formula that could be used to move a planet – exactly what the future people need to do to save the earth. But, the formula doesn’t appear anywhere in his papers. So the future people decide they need to travel back in time to the 1980s (when the scientist – about 12 years old at the time – says that he developed the formula) and get it off him – without disturbing the time line by walking up to him and saying “Hey! We’re from the future!”.

So a small team travels back to the 1980s and spends most of their time stumbling around, not actually achieving anything.

They do however (somehow) become involved with a local tramp, who wanders around whitling things. Right at the end of the series they rescue the tramp from being hit by a car (and for some reason) immediately need to return to the future without the formula. Because the tramp is supposed to be dead, they take him with them. Once back in the future they get all mournful about how the mission failed and they’re all going to die.

Meanwhile the tramp notices that the perspex cube supercomputer isn’t level, and quickly whittles a wedge to correct the situation. The computer then announces “Hey, guess what! I wasn’t on a level surface so my calculations were off, the comet/asteroid/planet is going to miss us, hooray!” and everyone lives happily ever after.

The series ends with the boy genius and his girlfriend sitting on a pier back in the 1980s. She asks him what he’s carving into the wood, and he tells her it’s a formula to move planets. THE END.

It was a very weird show – everything was very grey and grim. Lots of melancholy shots of salt marsh and things. I remember a couple of other scenes, one of the future people ransacking the kid’s house (which in the future is a scheduled monument of some kind), and a couple of the time travellers sitting around at a party noting that all of the songs the locals are singing are about love. But that’s it.

So, what the hell was I watching? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Happy new year y’all! 😀