Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Queensland – sunny one day, soul destroying the next"

Image – Acting Superintendant Wayne Kerr (Putzi) Staenker, QPS (Ex South African Special Branch) posed for us in his tactical underwear prior to his commanding the guard at the last regional cabinet meeting. As it happened Putzi had a problem with equipment interoperability. The scabbard of his custom light saber/tazer combo was riveted to his tin pants at the wrong angle forcing him to wear the tactical blue overalls with the two button drop-down buttflap.

"Post Colonial Queensland"

Early 1954 –
A cyclone has recently ravaged the Queensland coast and in a small, airy, well built and well appointed hospital there (now demolished) CALLIGULA -  -  was born.

I shall save time and electrons here by citing an item I’d already written to that august team at ‘Larvatus Prodeo’.

Don’t worry.
It gives me the chance to give them a plug after their initial acceptance (placarded as ‘under moderation’) of such fine comment and gives you, the reader, a chance to upbraid them if they decide to ‘can’ it.

And guess what.
The honest little soldiers for free speech at Lp., last time I looked, have done exactly that.
They’re a bit like that those guys. If you deviate the slightest from their laserbeam-like approach to lateral thinking – then not only do they censor you but e-mail and abuse you.
Funny thing is they complain bitterly about others, say, the Murdoch press acting that way.
Has me beat, I can assure you.

But, here goes, I wrote this and want to expand on my reasoning down further below.

“Thanks for the reply people.
I’m new at this game (only about four or so years writing into blogs and being chastised for doing so) and forgive me for saying that I’m a very apolitical person who was dragged up in a crazy sort of household that lent me an incredible background in ethics theory very much leavened by the fact that we lived in Queensland.

I don’t know how many of you guys grew up with an Aboriginal babysitter wearing a snowy white frock, household help and daily homecalls from the quack when you were a bit peaky – all that sort of thing.
But that was my bad luck though it was great while it lasted.

“What’s this ratbag on about now?”
Well you might ask.
I guess that I’m trying to convey the message that we are all ‘hardwired’ during early life and drag the result along with us until we pop off the coil.

I’m saying that if an infant is treated decently – nurtured, is it - by this huge black woman and good humouredly kicked out of the way all day by this wiry old ( well, 35YO looks ancient when you’re three feet high) white woman who always, once a week, left a two bob coin on my dresser – then you’d gain some understanding about – acceptance. Yep that’s the word, acceptance.
I’d mention that such an upbringing does tend to colour one’s thinking which is probably why everyone thinks I’m some sort of commie whenever I write in.
It’s all a bit of a paradox to me.
But, these days, when I hear the term ‘spin’ or ‘slant’ or whatever – whenever I look into it I usually find bastardry involved and too often to the detriment of people like those who ‘hardwired’ me.”

So is the kid dreaming?
Who does he think he is – Rhett Butler?

My first real memories were of, what we now call, ‘an extended family’.
Kids work out the pecking order pretty quickly.

Pop believed he was boss but Nan was the undoubted boss of this family.
My mother was their daughter and my old man was, by the nature of things back then, the bloke hanging around after 5.00pm.

Then there were the siblings.
And all seven of us fitted into one half of the same tatty old mansion I live in now.

In the other part of the house we had tenants.
Has me absolutely beat how they put up with the shenanigans from our side of the place.
But as best as I can recall they seemed to as ‘almost’ part of our family.

Then as mentioned above – we had ‘servants’.
Or did we? Depends, I suppose, on your definition.
There is no doubt that I remember the work done and the payment waiting in crisp pound notes at the end of the table at knock-off time.

But in my later time I have never seen anything like the sharing of gossip, jokes and banter, of chores, smoko, lunch and the ritual scanning of the lottery ticket results in the paper to see if their shared ticket had a win.
Seemed to me that there was often more time spent horsing about rather than working.

I was seeing things through rose colored glasses, right?

Then why, some years later, way past her retirement age, when our fortunes had adversely changed, would a much older Mrs. Z. arrive on her pushie and without any invitation start waxing and polishing again?

When challenged about that by my mother she said, “Biddie, I’m past retirement age now so I can’t take wages and can do what I blanky well like.
Aren’t I welcome here? When are you making coffee?”

One of those days I heard a bit of a commotion. The dear lady had sprung my mum sneaking some money into her handbag.
I thought they’d come to blows, glaring at each other over the kitchen table.

I could only hear a few of the words Mrs. Z. spoke, “this is not about money Biddie; this is to do with returning old favours. Where would --- (her husband) and I be if your mum hadn’t taken care of the traps back then?”

The last time I was with Mrs.Z. was a few months before she passed away.
She phoned, peremptorily ordering me to visit her.
She apologized for breaking all the propellers and wheels off my model planes when I was a kid and I apologized for calling her ‘my personal weekly indoor cyclone’.

We talked about all manner of things but there was no way I could get a hint out of her about what sort of ‘favour’ my grandmother did for her husband all those years ago that involved confusing the ‘traps’.

They’ve all gone to a better place now so unless there’s some cop’s grandchild out there who’s been let into the other side of the story we’ll never know.

I mentioned another lady in my young life.
A well built woman padded well enough in the right places to be particularly attractive to young children. I do remember her fresh lavender scent, big smile and, what we call now, ‘Big Hair’ – for she had an Afro hairdo before the name was invented.

Incidentally she happened to be, as pop called her, “as black as the ace of spades”.

Mrs. W. is more of a dim memory since she ‘went away’ before I began school.
All I was told was that she ‘had to go back to her people’.

I’m older and wiser now and realize that she and her husband must have fallen below some threshold – income/employment or just annoyed someone in town.

In other words, despite being a valued member of our community she was sent back to what amounted to a ‘concentration camp’.
Queensland – sunny one day, soul destroying the next.

It’s interesting though, Queensland.
The way we used to treat authority – like the poor fishing inspectors who started work one morning years ago; intrepidly went out in their tinnie on a bright, calm day – and were never seen again.

And the way authority still treats us.
“Oh look at that’, thinks the traffic cop. You bloody beauty; A solo motorcycle, a rider, no pillion, no one else about.
That’s three brownie points for me, six demerit points for him.
With a bit of luck he’ll be going to work the same way tomorrow morning and I can finish him off.” (Indeed. In the ‘Smart State™’ dingo hunters are mostly smarter than traffic cops. Though they both approach the job in the same predatory way the dingo hunter usually keeps a few spare for next season.)

But there’d always been more that two of his sort in town, so his sort is usually safe.

All of which any reasonable Queenslander could assume is why we still have vestigial concentration camps here and why our much loved premier cannot venture outside without being attended by her incredibly intimidating ‘Praetorian Guard’.

It may fairly well be argued in most jurisdictions that “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

But this is Queensland and if one ‘wrong’ has money and another ‘wrong’ has power then for all intents and purposes they combine to forge a right.]
Whereas on the other hand when a person has no money or influence the reverse inevitably applies.

Conclusion –
All of this is my way of saying that Queensland in living memory was, and to a large degree, remains, a wild and woolly place.
I submit this as a piece of living history linking my early memories directly with matters only now emerging from Queensland’s murky past.

Some reading on that subject – - Which details Mr. Howard’s attempt to bring the past into the present. - Where as late as last year some citizens advise the premier that something has changed. These days, they contend, it isn’t just aboriginal people and minority groups being marginalized and brutalized – it’s now the state’s entire population.

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