xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage

Wednesday, 29 March 2023

Thr Right to Dissent. A daughter's anti Ukraine War drawing has made her Russian father a fugitive.


Recently, a Russian man's daughter drew an anti Ukranian war picture at her school. The school's principal reported her to the police. The father has now received a gaol sentence and the daughter is in a child care facility.
This is Putin's totalitarian regime in operation. It bears all the hallmarks all totalitarian states.                Any form of dissent must be stamped out immediately. As a brave Russian dissident, currently living in Europe  said recently, "In Putin's Russia Dissent is followed by poison, gaolg or deportation."
Fortunately, the father, who was wearing an electronic device in home detention, was able to remove the electronic shackle and is now missing. It is said some in the courtroom cheered when that news was given to the judge by the prosecutor. Very brave of them.
We can condemn the school principal, however, it is probable that he would have also faced gaol himself, if he had not reported the girl's "crime". That is how totalitarian states work. Everyone is a snitch, for their own self protection.
In 1963, I lived in Toronto and got to know a Czechoslovakian asylum seeker. He had sought political asylum in Canada when he was returning from a conference in Cuba. I'll call him Joe.
In his home country, Joe was separated from his wife but had weekly access to his son. One Saturday, on an outing with his son, the boy asked him why there were so many armed soldiers in the streets.
Joe replied that the soldiers had to carry guns because some people may become unruly if soldiers did not have those guns to keep them in order.
A few days later, at three o'clock in the morning, Joe was roughly roused from his sleep by the local version of the secret police and taken away for interrogation.
it seems his son had mentioned the incident to his mother who had quickly told the local police that her former husband was telling her son that the Czech people would revolt against the communist government if they were not continually threatened with guns.
Well, Joe, managed to talk his way out of trouble (maybe his inquisitors also had vengeful ex wives).
About a month later, Joe, who was a television animator, attended a conference in Havana, Cuba, for people working in TV.
On the flight home, his plane stopped to refuel in Gander, Newfoundland.
Joe, with the other passengers, disembarked and went to have a meal in as dining area. There were several government officials (secret police) in the group which was in a separate area from all other the travellers. The only door out of their enclosed dining area was guarded by a large, Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman.
After a while, Joe stood up an announced he was going to the toilet. He started walking slowly towards the toilets but, as he neared the big Canadian mounted police man, he sprinted towards the door. Several "government officials" set off in hot pursuit after him.
Joe made it to the Mountie, a few seconds ahead of his minders. The Mountie quickly twigged what was happening. He opened the door to let Joe through and then quickly closed it. He then stood as resolute as Horatio on the Bridge, stopping the government minders from grabbing Joe, who had continued running through the building until he saw another Mountie and said he was seeking asylum.
Joe finished up working in Toronto with a friend of mine, who was also a TV animator.
I met Joe socially many times. He was sorry that he was unlikely to ever see his son again but he was forever grateful that now he lived in a beautiful, free country, Canada.
Despite the kindly actions of the burly Mountie, Joe always had a fear of men in uniform.
Living in Toronto, my friends and I often spent  weekends in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
On one occasion we took Joe with us. As we walked across the Peace Bridge to the American side of the Falls, Joe became agitated. Up ahead, he could see uniformed Canadian and US customs officers whose job it was to check passports of people passing between Canada and the USA. Our experience on the Peace Bridge was that, even as Australians, we were usually waved through without anybody ever stamping our passports, or even looking at them.
We told Joe not to worry. However, he became more agitated  and soon turned around and walked back to the Canadian side.
We followed him back. Later on we convinced him to drive with us across the bridge. Our car had Canadian plates and, as usual, we were just waved straight through.
How terrible it must be to live in a dictatorship where even an innocent conversation with your child can result in an early morning raid from the secret police?.
How horrible is it that a person's life is so traumatised by totalitarianism that the mere sight of a uniform can cause a panic attack?
I hope the father in the story above finds freedom in a country where he can one day live with his young daughter.
Imagine her grief..and guilt..that her innocent peaceful anti war drawing has made her father a fugitive from a regime that cannot tolerate even the mildest form of dissent.
We can always find reasons to grumble and groan because the government of the day is not doing something about something that we think they should. 
However, we should be grateful everyday that we can complain, grizzle, write nasty letters of protest to the papers but the government will not lock us up...unless we are violent of course.
Let us be very, very grateful that we do not live in a country where a father can be sentenced to a long gaol term because his school aged daughter drew a a picture calling for Peace on Earth. 

Saturday, 25 February 2023

If you host a Fancy Dress Party you must dress up.

I am devastated to note that this is my first blog story since October last year. When I started Blogging in September 20I2 I used to write three, four and sometimes five stories a month. Now I seem to be lucky to get out one story in five months. I humbly  apologise to you, my dedicated Reader. I can only lamely say I have been regularly writing on Facebook. A weak excuse, I agree. So…once more into the breach!

On Saturday mornings I enjoy reading the weekly columns of Belle Taylor who is also the editor of the West Australian newspaper’s Saturday Magazine. Last week Belle wrote a story about Modern  Good Manners and invited readers’ feedback. One responding reader chose to be anonymous. Belle called him Pete. I can relate to Anonymous Pete’s response. He wrote, “If you host a fancy dress party you must dress up.”

Well, that seems obvious. Why would anyone host a fancy dress party and not turn up in fancy dress. I recall that in 1963 I was living with five other Aussies in a house in Toronto. Almost every Saturday night was Party Night. One time we decided to have a party with a Mexican theme. Everybody came along in some sort of Mexican rig. Around 11 0'clock a journalist mate of ours turned up. He had just knocked off and was dressed in a blue suit and tie. Not very Mexican. I quickly whisked him into the bathroom and removed his coat and tie and  splashed water all over the back. I then steered him back to the party and introduced him as Miguel, our late arriving Mexican Wetback. For those who may not know wetback is a Mexican who has tried to enter the United States by swimming across the  Rio Grande

But back to  Anonymous Pete’s warning. Obviously he has suffered because somebody called a fancy dress party but but did not dress accordingly.  I, too,  was a victim of this cruel practice. It nearly ruined my life. 

In the mid sixties a fiend of mine said his girlfriend was in a group  called The Guide Dogs for Blind Younger Set or something like that. His girlfriend lived in  Dalkeith. He said she was in a group of ladies who arranged social events to raise money for charity. Always keen to support a compelling cause, I fronted up on a wintry Saturday night to a large  rustic barn somewhere south of Beaconsfield for a Tom Jones  Fancy Dress Party.

Tom Jones was the popular movie of the day, starring the great Albert Finney. I was not disappointed. Inside the barn was a throng of mainly twenty somethings all dressed as if they had just stepped of the Tom Jones movie set. The sounds of The Beatles,  Chuck Berry and others had the crowd rocking and shaking.                                                                                                                                                                 

 Most of the blokes sported white shirts  that were unbuttoned just north of their navels. They were wearing the tightest pair of pants that they owned with the trouser legs tucked in to long white socks that came up to their knees. Around their waists they wore broad black belts or had tied colourful sashes where a belt should be. The young ladies wore long skirts and variously coloured, unbuttoned blouses that provided very scenic views for those of us who were connoisseurs of cleavage. That was me and all the males present. There was a table at one end where cheeky young wenches dispensed mulled wine and mulled ale, for a small fee of  course.                                                                                                        

Well, I had a great time. At work  the following Monday I told a beautiful girl that I was very keen to impress about the Tom Jones Fancy Dress Party. She was impressed. I convinced her that whenever the Younger Set for Whatever organised another event that we should go along as a foursome with another couple we were friendly with.    

About two months later my friend said his girlfriend and her Younger Set group were organising a Gypsy Night. When I asked if it was in the same run down barn he said it was in function hall near Bindaring Parade in Cottesloe. Something should have twigged but it never did.

I arranged for our friendly foursome to attend the Gypsy Fancy Dress Party. The two ladies asked about dress requirements. I told of  the impressive array of fancy dresses at the Tom Jones party and said that we would all need to look like gypsies. They went to a fancy dress store and hired some gypsy clothes.  We turned up at the event with the two girls looking like the sultry Marlene Dietrich who starred as a gypsy in the popular 1950s movie, Golden Earrings. 

Big Mistake. All of the young ladies in the Younger Set for Something or Other were dressed in very fashionable long evening dresses and the fellows were in rather expensive party casual. Needless to say the two girls in our foursome were less than impressed with me. We found a remote corner of the hall where we sat in embarrassed isolation.We left after an hour or so.

I was mortified. Why would people announce a themed fancy dress party and then rock up dressed for a Vogue photoshoot? After the deep embarrassment of that night I had my work well and truly cut out making any progress with the beautiful girl that I was trying to impress. However, I persevered in my efforts to impress and all’s well that ends well.  I I August I will have been married to that beautiful girl for the last 55 years. In  all that time we have never been to another fancy dress party.