Day 70: 6 July 2017
Thursday, 05 July 2018 15:59

On our way into Hobart today, the bus stopped to pick up a young man. Because I sit up front, I overheard the banter between driver and boarding passenger. The guy didn’t have money for the fare, and asked to be allowed to pay later. We were still in the country, not all that far from Kettering, which would make it hard for the guy to find alternate transport. Clearly, the driver wasn’t about to let the young guy off the hook. So, I paid the $4.

* * *

Rather than tell the smiling, mature-aged supermarket checkout lady my woes, I tell her that she has a lovely smile. She beams at me, and I go away knowing I’ve made her happy.

* * *

A close friend of Arjay, from their university days in Manila, wrote in desperation eighteen months ago to say she needed immediate, life-saving surgery. She asked to borrow A$1,400. Her zeal in asking for the money was matched only by her promises to repay the loan as soon as she got a job. The operation was a success and she secured a good job in a posh place. Yet, after several months of wellness and work, no repayments were forthcoming. When I wrote asking for a repayment plan: nothing eventuated. Two months later, one-third of the money arrived. That was four months ago. A recent Facebook post with photo of a flight, be it for work or pleasure, grated. I sent more emails; no reply. My biggest worry is that if the same request was made to me another time, I’d probably lend money again. It’s who I am.

* * *

Back when my (second) wife and I lived in New York, one night after we’d dined at a pizza restaurant, we walked home, me with the remains of the pizza, for my lunch the next day. We passed Geoffrey, a homeless guy, who lived under the elevated train tracks. ‘Give him the pizza,’ said my wife. ‘No way,’ I replied. ‘It’s tomorrow's lunch.’ ‘Give him the pizza!’ I did as told.

Day 68: 4 July 2017
Thursday, 05 July 2018 15:46

Scene No.1 of JACKAROO screenplay

INTERIOR. DINING ROOM AT ‘YARRUM PARK’STUD FARM, DUNKELD - NIGHT. Camera freezes on exquisite, illuminated chandelier; pans down to a huge portrait of a prize Hereford bull; continues down to heavily-acned yet strong-looking teen sitting at a mahogany dining table, chewing! Camera then pans past four more of Geelong Grammar’s 1st XVIII footballers all wearing School’s light blue sweater over white shirt; pans to end chair and radiant Mrs Baillieu who smiles at her beloved jocks. Only sound is chewing! Pans down other side of table: five more revolting footballers chewing rudely. Camera stops on angelic, olive-skinned Michael at far end. He sips his glass of wine while he stares at the row of jocks, winces, disgusted, revolted.

 MICHAEL (Voice Over). 'That’s me! Michael. I’m not a footballer like these morons. I’m the team’s time-keeper. It gets me out of having to play a winter sport. My mother tells everyone I’m a huge disappointment because she played at Wimbledon and she can’t understand why I’m so fucking useless at sport. I sing, which is more than these idiots can do. Funny how God never makes boys who can sing AND play football!' Camera pans back along first row of boys to Mrs Baillieu at the far end for her reaction; camera freezes on her cool aristocratic poise.

MICHAEL (V.O.) 'That’s Mrs Baillieu, one of the footballer’s mothers. Mum and she went to school together. They still play tennis together. We’re like Family -- except they’re RICH and we’re NOT!' We see a jock stuffing his face with food; camera to Mrs Baillieu.

MRS BAILLIEU (looks down table to Michael). 'So, Michael. What are YOUR plans for next year?' The footballers turn, give Michael a big glare. They hate him.

MICHAEL (close-up, smiles). ' I’ll be spending the year as a jackaroo for Dick Webb at Habbies Howe.' As one, all eyes turn to Mrs Baillieu to get her reaction.

 MRS BAILLIEU (her smile hardens; LONG pause). ' I’ll be surprised if YOU last a year THERE!' Michael’s face turns scarlet with embarrassment, while all of the footballers smirk and snigger. One gives him the finger!

Day 69: 5 July 2017
Thursday, 05 July 2018 15:55

Overheard this morning in the foyer of Tasmania’s Supreme Court:

 1st defendant: ‘Have they chosen the jury yet?’

2nd defendant: ‘Just pay ’em five hundred dollars each and say nothin’.

* * *

My interest in trials piqued when I read Helen Garner’s account of the Farquharson murder trials; a father driving his three young sons into a dam west of Geelong. In House of Grief, Helen studiously describes the captivating theatre that is a courtroom, its actors and audience. Today is day one of what His Honour says will be a five-week trial for three men accused of bringing drugs into Tasmania. Later, the judge will say he’s actually ruled out thirteen weeks in his diary, in case. The accused duly plead not guilty, which allows the empanelling of the jury to proceed. It’s a long process, taking over an hour. The defence and prosecution teams between them reject all but three of the first twelve prospective jurors. Finally, after more challenges and pleas to be let off – and a number of self-disqualifications, one because the man knows one of the staggering 153 witnesses who will be called to give evidence – we have seven men and five women jurors. His Honour lists the rules pertaining to jurors; he then gives them thirty minutes to call family or work, and to feed parking metres. Immediately after the break, and before the jurors are brought back in, defence counsel informs His Honour that his client, defendant No.1 – who has an ongoing cardiac condition – is not well. The judge calls for an ambulance; he then reluctantly adjourns proceedings until next Tuesday, at 10am. Bail for each of the accused is extended until then. I’m left with two thoughts. First is the cost of justice. Here we have eight men and women wearing wigs, plus numerous operations and security staff. Think of the salaries, and the rent. The other is the politeness with which proceedings are conducted. Horror with dignity!

To be continued (23 trial instalments in total -- it gets more interesting each day, then the verdict)

Day 67: 3 July 2017
Tuesday, 03 July 2018 10:00

Cadets was compulsory at boarding school, and the worst day to be in cadets was ANZAC Day. It was always really hot, and boys who were made to stand in the oppressive heat while speeches were read, dropped like flies (told to fall down at attention). On my first ANZAC Day parade, I looked around for an alternative. And there, seated in the shade of the chapel cloisters, with no doubt a cool breeze blowing through, was the cadet band. ‘Next year, Thornton!’ I whispered to myself. On our first day back at school the following February, I put my name down for Band – specifically drums. The next day, the band master made me do a drum roll. It was anything but, and he asked what else I could do. I chose a curly brass instrument called a baritone. Within a week I’d taught myself to play Three Blind Mice, followed by Colonel Bogey and Waltzing Matilda. My grandfather, who paid my school fees, previously had banned Music on the grounds that it wasn’t something boys did. So, I forged Mum’s signature on the permission slip. ANZAC Day came and went, and I stayed cool. Music exams were held in October, with the same examiner coming from Melbourne each year. ‘I haven’t seen you before,’ he said. ‘No, Sir,’ I replied. ‘I haven’t done an exam before.’ ‘And you want to sit a Grade Five exam using the trumpet syllabus?’ ‘Yes, please Sir,’ I said. ‘You won’t pass,’ he said. My face went bright red. I proceeded to play my set and chosen pieces, although he stopped me half way through Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring, to tell me to cut the pace by half. No one had taught me about speed! The following Saturday, I caught the train into Geelong, where I bought a second-hand trombone. Eight days later, the band marched through Geelong for a charity event, and I played the marches on my shiny, silver trombone. Neither my mother nor my grandparents commented on my report card, which arrived home the following week. I guess my score kind of made it hard for them to be angry with me.


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