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

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Getting out and about in the time of Covid-19.

Even in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, starting in early March, I was able to enjoy pleasant walks around the neighbourhood. These days I usually only walk a kilometre or two, but it keeps me in touch with the blue sky, the flowers, birds and the occasional dog.

However, sometime in May, I found that after walking about 200 metres, I got a pain in my lower right calf. It was not an excruciating pain but it did make me hobble along like an old man. Even though I am 82 years old I do not like to hobble along like an old man.

If I stopped walking for a couple of minutes, I was able to walk pain free for another 200 metres or so. I concluded that poor circulation was the cause of my problem. My GP confirmed this when he applied various tests and pronounced that I was suffering from Claudication. He sent me off to have an ultra sound on my right calf.

I made an appointment at a nearby medical imaging centre. I was sitting, quietly relaxed, in the reception area when a young brunette called my name and asked me to follow her, which I did. We chatted pleasantly as she led me down a long corridor, before pausing in front of the door leading to her work area. She opened the door and invited me in to a rather dark room that had two quite large TV monitors in it alongside a hospital bed.

“ Take your trousers off,” said the young lady as she closed the door just after I had entered the room.

“OK,” I said to her, “but I do not even know your name.”

“It’s Sam. Now lie down on the bed.” So I lay down on the bed in my underpants and a shirt. She started unbuttoning my shirt.

 “ Er, uh..,ah… It is my right calf that is the problem, “ I said as the young lady undid the last button, pulled my shirt open and started pushing the top of my underpants waaaay down low.

“Correct,’ she replied with a slight laugh, “but your calf problem could be caused by a blood supply blockage in your abdomen. So, I will give you an ultrasound of your abdomen and your right leg.” She was very good at her job. Eventually told me that I had a 90% blocked artery behind my right knee.

Two weeks later I was in Day Surgery being prepped for the insertion  of a stent in the blocked artery behind my right knee. I was having a knee by-pass. After I had put on my ill-fitting hospital gown an attractive young, blue eyed, blonde,  Irish nurse helped me fill in some forms.  She explained that I would need to have my groin shaved and asked me to follow her. I knew the drill as I had had my groin shaved  by nurses a couple of times before when I had surgery for a hernia operation in 1998 and in preparation for and angiogram after a heart attack in 1993.

However, I was surprised when she led me into a Gents Toilet where she placed a towel on the floor. Then, like Mandrake, she produced a verydainty, feminine looking electric razor and proceeded to demonstrate on the outside of her hospital issue slacks how and where I should shave my own groin.

Shave my own groin! This is not how I remembered it. After her brisk and business like demonstration, the nurse left to me to attack myself with the electric razor. Naturally, I took extreme care and found the task more difficult that I would have imagined. With a pile of pubic hair on the towel on the floor and the mirror above the wash basin reflecting a rough looking Brazilian, I made my way back to my Irish nurse. She took my word for it that the job had been done and showed no inclination to check my handiwork." What has happened to Quality Control, I thought?

Later that morning the surgeon cut into my left groin, inserted a special needle and eventually placed a stent behind my right knee. They gave me a needle to calm me down. However, I was conscious throughout the thirty to forty minute procedure and watched the whole thing on a nearby TV monitor. Afterwards, I had to lie still for four hours to ensure the entry wound into the artery in my right groin was sealed sufficiently for me to get up and go home. Around 4-30 pm the room nurse gave me the all clear and I walked away with no pain whatsoever.

A walking miracle of modern  medicine.

As the Covid-19 lockdown eased in the second half of the year some previously postponed events came back on the agenda. My wife, Lesley, and I subscribe to concerts at the Concert Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre. In August I received an e-mail from His Majesty’s Theatre informing that a concert that had been postponed was now going to be staged.

The e-mail explained that because of Covid-19 spacing requirements, only a maximum of 500 people could occupy the various seating spaces in the stalls, the dress circle and the upper dress circle. We were informed that to spread people around, our reserved seats in the stalls had been switched to seats in the upper dress circle and asked if we were  happy with that?. Well, we were more than happy and looked forward to the concert which featured stars of WA Opera.

We arrived at His Majesty’s about thirty minutes before the concert was due to start, making our way up three flights of stairs to the upper dress circle. I was surprised that the people sitting in the dress circle were not "socially distanced" at all. I expected every second row to be empty, but that was not the case. About 500 people were sitting elbow to elbow in the rows with no spaces between the rows.

I found myself sitting next to an elderly lady and her daughter. I say she was an elderly lady but she was probably  ten years younger than me. About five minutes before the concert started I felt the need to blow my nose. In the middle of a pandemic I wondered if blowing my nose in a crowded theatre would cause the same sort of panic as if someone shouted “Fire!”

I leaned towards the elderly lady and said in hushed tones, “I am going to blow my nose. I do not have a cold. I do not have coronavirus. I have an allergy. It gives me Post Nasal Drip. When that happens I need to blow my nose. I am going to blow now."

The lady put her hand on my arm and said, “Oh, my Dear, I am so glad that you said that, as I am going to blow my nose, too.” Which with both did.

Thankfully, nobody panicked.



Sunday, 16 August 2020

August 15, 1945. The day Peace broke out.

The 75th anniversary of VJ Day, Victory in the Pacific, brought forth a lot of reminiscing on TV, radio and in the newspapers. Here are some of my memories of that wonderful day, as recounted in an excerpt from my book about my early years titled, “LEON, A backward glance at boyhood”.                                                                                                                                                                           LEON was published in August, 2005. I referred to myself as LEON as I wrote in the Third Person and I was not happy constantly writing “Noel did this…” and “Noel did that…” so I set myself free by calling myself  Leon which seems a suitable name for a boy named Noel taking a backward glance at his boyhood.

Yes, a lot of Australian history was being made when Leon and his mates in Seventh Avenue were going to the pictures or playing their make-believe games in the bush. It was a good time to be alive. The war was over and we had won it. It was 15 August, 1945 – what a day that was for Leon. He was seven years old and in Grade Two at school at Sacred Heart, Highgate. There was no school that day because it was a religious holiday – The Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady – and Leon and his family had gone to 7.30 am mass at All Hallows Church in Central Avenue. When the family came out of the church, all of the state school mates were riding their bikes up and down the streets and yelling and screaming that the war was over.

“Why aren’t you at school?” Leon called out.

“There’s no school today. The war is over! The war is over! It’s peacetime!”

Yes, peace had broken out. A time of delicious happiness. A time of great celebrations. Later on Leon joined the state school kids. They had ribbons and streamers in their bike wheels and had tied on empty kerosene tins that made a tremendous din as they dragged them along the bitumen road. It was a day to remember!

A few days later there was the big Peace Parade in Perth and all the trams were packed with happy, laughing joyful people. Everyone was kissing each other and there were coloured streamers everywhere. Leon waited near the Eighth Avenue tram stop in Beaufort Street. When the crowded trams returned from the big Peace Parade he would rush up to anyone wearing a military uniform and say, “Thanks for winning the war!”

“That’s OK, sonny,” they would smile. Sometimes they called him Tiger or Snowy or Sunny Jim. Leon felt really proud if they called him mate. Somehow, “mate” made him more a part of the war effort.

In his small way Leon had been part of the war effort. With the other boys in the street, he had collected bottle tops, old cutlery, old car tyres and old clothes which he had been told would be turned into bullets, uniforms and bandages for the soldiers. Leon attended Sacred Heart Junior School in Harold Street, Highgate. He was an Air Raid Warden for his junior primary class. In the playground a large slit trench had been made with timber planks to hold the earth firm. The trench was about six feet deep (182 centimetres). This was too deep for the children to jump straight into, so at one end of the trench someone had placed a small table. Leon’s job was to jump on to the table and then help the rest of the class as they clambered first on to the table and then stepped down to the bottom of the trench. His teacher, the smiling faced nun, Sister Francis, showed Leon how to do his job and she made sure the children stood in straight and orderly lines before their turn came to jump in.

They used to have practise drills each week. Sometimes the local air raid siren would start up its fearful wail and the children would move outside in their orderly way, but each little heart would be beating fast. Was it a drill or were the Japanese about to attack? In the shelter everyone would crouch down, huddled together. The sirens would stop wailing and there would be a terrible silence as everyone waited for the bombs to come raining down. Sister Francis would tell the children to say Hail Marys while they were waiting so that the Mother of God would save them from peril.

At last the silence would be shattered by the air raid siren, sounding a long blast to signal the “All Clear”. Leon once more leapt to the table and assisted his classmates back inside where Sister Francis would ask everyone to say one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be to thank God and his mother, Mary, for saving them from harm. Leon always knew we would win the war. God was on our side. Not only that, the beautiful Sister Francis was on our side too! And she was praying hard.

Leon could also remember air raids sounding when he was asleep at night. Everyone would get up and huddle under the big table in the lounge room. All the windows were blacked out with black paper and Jack would use a small torch to help everyone get settled. In the darkness they would talk in whispers and listen every now and then for the engines of the enemy’s bombers. Later on would come the “All Clear” siren.

One day, Leon walked into his backyard and was surprised to see that Jack was digging a huge hole in the lawn between the house and the fenced off yard where he kept his chooks and ducks. One of the neighbours was leaning over the side fence and Jack was explaining that he was building an air raid shelter. Jack enlisted in the army when war broke out. He was 35 years old and the Foreman at the Perth  Modelling Works in East Perth, which produced fibrous plaster goods to the building industry. He passed his physical test for the army but was Manpowered by the government who said he was required to stay working in the vital building trade.

“I always said if Singapore falls I’ll build a shelter,” grunted Jack as he heaved another shovelful of sand out of the hole. Over a couple of weekends Jack put some cement slabs on the bottom of the hole and placed some old carpet over them. Then he sank some wooden posts around the shelter and nailed corrugated iron sheets to them to make the walls. After that he nailed some planks across the top, put some more sheeting over that and then put some sand over the tin and down the sides. On top of all this he replaced the blocks of lawn that he had removed to dig the hole. He put a couple of wire beds and some old mattresses up one end of the shelter and a small card table and two wooden stools at the other. Near the table was a large metal traveller’s trunk.

Of great interest to Leon were the packages of dried food and tinned goods that Jack placed in this trunk. He noted especially, the packets of Minties, New World Chocolates and Hoadley’s Violet Crumble Bars that went in. Also in the trunk were a couple of dozen eggs that Jack had collected from his chook yard. He had covered these with a greasy cream called Ke-Peg and then individually wrapped them in newspaper. Jack said this would keep the eggs fresh for at least six months. Leon certainly hoped so because he had once broken a rotten egg and the stench was unbearable. He imagined the stench from two dozen rotten eggs would take everyone’s mind off the war and keep the Japanese invaders a long way upwind, somewhere north of Broom. 

Every few months Jack would replace the eggs with freshly Ke-Peged ones. The eggs taken from the air raid shelter would be placed in a bucket of water. Jack said that any eggs that rose to the top were no good and full of rotten egg gas. These were carefully buried in a deep hole right down the backyard. Another interesting item in the trunk was a packet of blue tipped wax matches that would light up even if wet. There were also some candles and a white First Aid case with a red cross on it.

Next to the trunk were two large metal containers filled with water and some bottles of kerosene and methylated spirits.  On one of the wooden beams Jack put a hook from which he dangled an old hurricane lamp. He sawed some wooden planks to make three steps leading into the shelter and a door was attached to the two thick wooden uprights. When he had finished, the air raid shelter was completely covered with lawn except for the slope that led down to the doorway. Finally, he put a big padlock on the door and showed everybody where he had hung the key on a small hook on the back verandah.

During the war, confectionery was almost non-existent. So, on the day when everyone was celebrating the end of the war, Leon was quick to ask Jack to open up the metal trunk and give him a Hoadley’s Violet Crumble Bar. With great pleasure Leon rode his Swansea bike up and down the street, beribboned wheels whirling, an empty kerosene tin trailing noisily behind him as he triumphantly waved a Hoadley’s Violet Crumble Bar for his envious mates to see. Ah, yes, peace had broken out and lollies would soon be back in the shops. Let the good times roll!

After the excitement of the end of the war and the victory parades, there was still more joy to come as some of the Seventh Avenue fathers returned from the war. Len Wiltshire, Ray Burnett, Bertie Muir, Keith and Jim Stockford all welcomed their fathers home. But not Mrs Garrett who lived at the end of Seventh Avenue.  Leon had often seen her walk past the house with her young son. She was a very pretty blonde-haired lady but she was always dressed in black and seemed to walk very fast as if she was desperate to be somewhere else.                                                                                                             Leon’s mother told him that Mrs Garrett’s  husband had been killed “in the islands”. Leon had no idea where those islands were.

Lest we forget!





Sunday, 31 May 2020

The Mystery of the Missing Mondummery Shield.

In 1957 I was editor of  KLAXON, the student newspaper at Graylands Teachers College. In order to drum up some ongoing student interest I inaugurated the Mondummery Shield competition to find the “lovingest” couple on campus.

I called it the Mondummery Shield because in 1956,  two Second Year students, Don  Mummery and Erica Shepherd were clearly the lovingest couple on campus. In each issue I would award points and make some acerbic comments about  enthusiastic amorous couples; the college’s modern day equivalent of Romeo and Juliet.

Des Beeck, who after graduating taught for many years in Albany, designed the Mondummery Shield. It depicted two red hearts pierced by an arrow, two hands clasped in loving fondness, Cupid with his bow and  three sets of fulsome lips floating in the top right quadrant.. Why Des chose three lips to depict a trophy dedicated to true love is another story, far too salacious to outline here.

Although the college colours were blue and gold, Des painted the shield predominantly in pink and blue, complete with motto. We then unceremoniously hung it up, without any authority, alongside all the other shields of various institutes of learning that adorned the walls of the Graylands Teachers' College Hall, which at that time was cleverly disguised as an ex-Army Nissen Hut.

Des Beeck handing over the replica Mondummery Shield to the author at Challenge Stadium in 2007.

Sean Walsh, a noted scholar of Pedagogy in those days, suggested that a shield was not worth a drop of Leprechaun’s sweat unless it had a Latin inscription. After a great deal of debate Sean’s suggestion, “Non Nibbilbus Sibbilbi”, was adopted and duly printed in Romanesque script at the bottom of the shield. To this day its meaning is obscure. As Sean eventually finished up as W.A. Premier, Geoff Gallop’s Chief of Staff, there are some who think it is a message of deep political significance. The Mondummery Shield remained a popular facet of college life at Graylands until the college was closed in December 1979.

I returned to Graylands in 1972, lecturing in Science and Mathematics Education. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the Mondummery Shield was being as hotly contested for as ever. How I came to be appointed as a lecturer at Graylands Teachers College is an interesting and rather long story which you may read here: How Gough Whitlam led me to the Principalship-led-me-to.html

The Mondummery Shield Award competition remained a great Graylands tradition until 1979 when the government finally closed the doors of its “temporary” teachers college. I often wondered what happened to Don Mummery and Erica Shepherd. Don Mummery was a well known artist and art teacher. I know that he and Erica both had successful teaching careers. Better still, they married soon after leaving college and lived happily ever after.  I used to think that they were probably oblivious to the legacy of love that they left behind at Graylands. However, I did meet a college contemporary of theirs in 2007 and he informed me that Don and Erica were not entirely happy with their connection  to the Mondummery concept. Fair enough!

Sadly, the present whereabouts of the Mondummery Shield is shrouded in mystery. It is alleged that someone souvenired it in the sad, final days of the college in late 1979. At a 1957 Graduates' 40th reunion celebration in 1997, I was told by Len McKenna, a wonderful Science and Nature Study lecturer in our student days at Graylands, that he had been told the Mondummery Shield was given to Don Mummery in the college's last days. Allegedly, according to Len, Don had then burnt it.

In 2007, the 1957 college year group celebrated the 60th anniversary of their graduatuon. As this was the group which was present at the birth of the Mondummery Shield Award, I thought it would be appropriate to at least  have replica of the shield for the occasion.  I contacted Des Beeck and told him the sad news that his original Mondummery Shield was missing in action and asked if he could make a new one. He readily agreed and presented it on the night of the reunion. 

I subsequently handed this replica shield over to the Edith Cowan University Archives at their Joondalup Campus. Graylands was one of the teachers colleges that was initially amalgamated with Churchands, Claremont, Mt Lawley and Secondary Teachers Colleges in 1973 to become the W.A. College of Advanced Education WACAE later blossomed, together with Joondalup Teachers College, into Edith Cowan University. So all Graylands Graduates are ECU Alumni. Another point of interest is that Sean Walsh, of Non Nibbilbus Sibillbi fame, was the Chief Assistant to the Minister For Works, Des Dans, and was heavily involved in the design and construction of Challenge Stadium in the 1980s. It must also be noted that the replica shield does not have the Non Nibbibus Sillibi motto, but a proud Mondummery Shield title at the base.

In 2017 I contacted the ECU Archives to get some memorabilia and the gentlemen there informed me that the Mondummery Shield was by far the most talked about piece of memorabilia in the archives. I have often though how nice it would be if all of the Mondummery Shield winners (and their present day partners) would turn up at an Annual Graylands Alumni Dinner. Nicer still if the shield, if it still exists, could be mysteriously returned and displayed once more in the halls of academe. It would then be a permanent reminder of some of the great fun and games enjoyed by Graylanders in those glorious, golden days. In its absence, perhaps Des Beeck's replica could be brought off the Interchange Bench for one more run around the Halls of Academe.

It may be, that somewhere in some dank and dark corner of some backyard shed,  lies the original, legendary Graylands shield of love. Hopefully, it has not yet become a white ant’s breakfast.
If you have the Mondummery Shield please return it to the Alumni Office at ECU, Joondalup. No questions asked!

If you know where it is, please contact me on 0407 463 364 or e-mail bourke@iinet.net.au