Cordelia

“Cordial”

“What?”

“Cordial, that’s her name,” smirked Kayden, as his buddies sniggered concomitantly.

“No, it’s Cordelia”

“Yeah, Cordial” and the remainder of Kayden’s posse sniggered again.

Cordelia rolled into the car park on her trusty hardtail and confirmed her presence, before Mr ‘Ev’ Evans continued checking attendance. The new teacher marked off a number of boys before arriving at an unfamiliar name:

“Adian”

“Eeeuuh,” protested the smallest member of Kayden’s posse, “It’s Ai – dan, not Ad-i-an.”

“Sorry,” replied Mr Evans, “it’s spelt A. D. I. A. N. – Adian”

“Eeuuh, that’s not how it’s said, it’s Aidan.”

“OK, settle down. So that’s Aidan, plus Brayden, Hayden and Jayden…”

and the three remaining boys grunted reluctantly at the teachers.

“Alright guys,” advised Ms Symonds, “we’ll start today on the skills track and the pump track, then we’ll go for a free ride, maybe right to the top today. Oh, and there’s a little surprise for everyone today.”

“That’s gay,” muttered Kayden under his breath. “Why can’t we just ride?”

It was futile to engage with Kayden, so the teachers led half the group to the skills area and the other half to the pump track. One group of students sized up the skills track: balance features, cornering challenges, a little rock garden, a seesaw and one final drop. The students laughed, stumbled and strained their way around the skills track with varying degrees of success, while Ms Symonds offered advice at various obstacles,

“Throw your bike forward off the drop,” she reminded them as they filed through the final obstacle.

“Good TJ”

“That’s it Matty”

“Exaggerate the throw Cordelia, so you don’t land on your front wheel like that”

Thud, whack, ouch!!!

Stuart crashed to the ground in a tangle of limbs and metal. His full rigid Malvern Star offered no shock absorption from the half metre drop and even the WD40 his Dad had sprayed all over the chain upon arrival couldn’t save him. He dusted himself off and assured Ms Symonds he was ok to continue amid a cackle of mocking laughter from the posse.

“He rides like a girl,” Kayden muttered.

“Kayden, don’t be sexist,” Ms Symonds admonished.

“What, I didn’t say anything about sex.”

“No, sexist, when you make bad comments about girls or women.”

“So what, there’s no girls here anyway.”

“What about Cordelia?”

“You mean Cordial?”

…and the boys laughed on command.

Stuart limped away from the obstacle course to put his bike and his pride back together.

“I didn’t do it properly either,” whispered Cordelia sympathetically, and Stuart’s rosy blush turned bright red.

Hayden and Jayden had excused themselves from the skills session and were obsessing over the positioning of their GoPro. Ms Symonds wondered when they’d ever do anything worth posting to their much-hyped Youtube channel.

“Yes Matty,” she complimented as he negotiated the drop.

“Perfect Angus”

“Yes, that’s it Cordelia” and the students bounced off the drop for the last time.

All except one.

Stuart picked his way through the skills course on his unforgiving retro bike, before nearing the final drop. Ms Symonds moved her hands instinctively towards the first aid kit, and the remaining students held their breath. The rigid front forks inched closer and closer to the edge of the drop while Stuart’s eyes widened in terror.

Would he make it?

Then something snapped and the terror disappeared. Stuart slammed down on the pedals, and with two strokes his front forks took flight. He leaned back, and with a strength belying his skinny arms he thrust the bike upwards and forwards.

Everyone waited.

His front wheel remained airborne and his back wheel finally left the boards. Arms extended and weight back, the bike flew down, down, down towards the dust. From tangled mess to perfect landing, Stuart had nailed it. A casual thumbs up from Cordelia turned his cheeks an impossible shade of red. He could always blame sunburn. Yep, he would blame sunburn.

Meanwhile, Ev was guiding his new students through the pump track.

“Look through the corner,” he said,

“Where you look is where you go”

Rider after rider rolled the bumps and swept through the turns. Some smoothly, others with a grating screech of brakes.

“Brayden and Adian can you not skid around every corner!”

“Why?”

“You churn up the track, you damage it for everyone else.”

“So?”

“Well, are you going to repair it?”

“As if, that’s so gay.”

Ev focussed his attention on the more receptive students, before realising one was missing.

“Kayden, are you going to join us?” he enquired. Kayden instructed the teacher to talk to the hand, while the other clutched his phone.

“I need it now,” he was saying, “hurry up and bring it…”

Kayden didn’t lower himself to skills sessions. His Santa Cruz Megatower 29er wasn’t built for technique practice or advice from ‘gay’ teachers. The brand-new, shiny, super expensive machine played the supporting role on his much-hyped Youtube channel.

The teachers swapped groups before deciding it was time to ascend.

“Let’s go,”

“What about the surprise?” asked Matty.

“Ah,” the teachers looked at each other, “…we’ll tell you when we get to the top.”

“Tap out a tempo on the climb, take your time, and we’ll meet at the start of Sidewinder. TJ, can you lead?”

“Wait!”- Kayden wasn’t ready.

“What’s the matter Kayden, are you OK?”

“Yeah, I’m waiting for my Mum. I need my other GoPro.”

“When will she be here?”

“I dunno!” Kayden snapped.

Again, discussion was futile, so Ms Symonds waited with Kayden and Adian, while Ev started the climb with the rest of the group.

Cordelia tapped out a rhythm on the long, slow climb, and the hill sessions she’d done by her house seemed to be paying off. Behind her, Stuart was puffing and panting on his heavy metal frame. Ev sensed a greater motivation in Stuart today – maybe it was the blonde ponytail up ahead.

Back at the carpark, a young boy stepped out of a late-model Hilux with a confidence Ms Symonds recognised. He walked to Kayden and thrust a GoPro into his hand.

“You might be riding with us soon,” remarked Ms Symonds in a friendly, off-hand manner.

“Nah, this is gay,” replied the young upstart, before being summoned impatiently by his mother,

“Get in the car Zayden!”

With his second GoPro attached, Kayden granted Ms Symonds permission to begin the climb. It wasn’t long before they caught Jayden, Hayden and Brayden, who were already pushing their bikes up the hill. The teacher was forced to dismount and listen to the posse whinge about the heat and the steepness of the climb,

“…they should put a chairlift in,” said Adian.

Ms Symonds distracted herself from the drudgery of the hike-a-bike by examining the bikes the posse members were riding. She was very happy with her Giant hardtail, especially after the dropper post had been added, but she was amazed at the machines in the hands of the 14 and 15-year-old boys. Kayden led the hike with his Megatower, while his minions trailed on Commencal , Canyon, YT, Nukeproof…all new, all carbon fibre. Ms Symonds began calculating the combined cost of the posse’s bikes, and how long it would take her to earn that much money. She stopped when it got too depressing.

“Now we can have some fun,” Ev assured them at the top of Sidewinder “…and I’ll be filming you guys on this trail, then on Taipan, Billy’s Bobsleigh and Sewerside, and the final edit goes into a video we’re going to show at the presentation night.”

“What, in front of everyone?”

“Yep. Classmates, parents, teachers – everyone.”

“Sick, cool, great…” they replied, with excitement and a hint of nervousness. The pressure was on.

“Send it!” and they were off.

Kayden’s posse had forced it’s way to the front of the convoy and led off with hoops and hollers and skids. They popped over the little jumps and sent dust flying from every corner and berm. Dom and Paddy followed and pulled off a ‘turnbar’ and ‘one foot’ on the little kickers in a determined effort to star in the video.

Ev knew some of this footage was usable and was even more excited when he reached the end of the trail and turned around to see Matty pull off an ‘ET’ on the big jump which concluded the trail.

“YEEEEUUUUUWWWWWW” they all screamed as Matty skidded to a halt.

“Ev, is that going in the video?” Matty pleaded hopefully.

“Maybe”

Next was Sewerside. Starting beside the stinky water reservoir, it was steeper, a bit more technical and a whole lot of fun for anyone light on the brakes.

“Relax, and keep your hands off the brakes as much as possible – just like Tracey Hannah,” Ms Symonds encouraged.

“Go!”

Off they sped, twisting and turning their way through the top technical section over rock gardens and drops. Jayden was the first to fall at the rock garden, followed by Hayden on the second drop. Only their egos were bruised, so the group careered its way down the hill straining to make their way onto the final cut.

Then it appeared.

“Nooooo!!!” screamed Stuart. A startled wallaby stood dead still in the middle of the trail, rooted to the ground. Stuart was going way too fast to stop and somehow threw his bike from side to side to avoid the poor animal and scare it off the trail into the bush. He returned his bike deftly to the trail and hung on with sweaty palms and gloveless fingers over the rocks, drops and gravel at the bottom of the trail.

More great footage, thought Ev.

Cordelia was beaming.

“Stu, you almost hit that wallaby”

Stuart was embarrassed, and mumbled,

“I just tried to get out of the way.”

“Yeah, with a tail whip – that was so impressive.”

This was the best day of Stuart’s life.

During the traverse to Taipan, Ev suggested to Kayden that he and his buddies contribute their GoPro footage to the presentation-night video. Even through his designer sunglasses, Kayden could be seen rolling his eyes.

“Nah, this is for Youtube – not for some gay school video.”

Discussion was futile.

Before sending the excited teenagers off Taipan, Ms Symonds reminded them to concentrate on their technique. They were getting tired. Plus, technique equals speed,

“…just like Jolanda Neff.”

“Who?” blurted Kayden.

“Jolanda Neff, world champion, world cup champion, she’s a Cross-Country rider from Switzerland, and she won a lot of races with strong technique on the descents…

“What, some chick!!” Kayden

“Yes, some chick who would beat anyone here, including you”

“As if,” and Kayden trailed off to his boys to issue orders for the impending descent.

“Don’t forget to smile for the camera,” Ms Symonds told everyone, and they were soon hurtling down Taipan.

Ev let all the riders glide onto the trail hoping to capture the kaleidoscopic train wind its way down the descent. The juxtaposition of vibrant colours on red-grey dusty trails enhanced the footage, and the beginnings of the final cut were coming together in his mind.

Brayden soon hit the deck after an ill-fated attempt to skid around a berm, and the camera focussed right on him as Ev turned his head to negotiate the corner.

“Smile,” he said as he whizzed by. Brayden didn’t see the funny side. Could he include that in the final cut? Ev asked himself, just before he witnessed something astonishing.

Cordelia was cruising through the flow trail with her distinctive blonde ponytail swishing around the turns, when he saw it;

Reddish-brown.

A metre long.

Venomous.

Just 2 metres in front of Cordelia.

Oh no!

A taipan. Smack bang in the middle of the trail.

Ev was helpless.

Please no!

Cordelia spotted the snake just in time.

Instinct took over.

Down, back, up..

In one deft movement she bunny-hopped the world’s third-most venomous snake before pushing into the next jump and flowing around the berm. The snake slithered off for cover and the newby teacher exhaled. She’d saved her own life, and probably his.

That was close.

Only two people had seen it. Soon, the entire school would.

Students and teachers soon found themselves at the top of the final run: Billy’s Bobsleigh. Tired, thirsty, sweaty, dusty, hungry and happy, they took in the amber glow of the afternoon sun and sipped from water bottles.

“This is it,” Mr Evans declared.

“Your last chance. Everyone has footage, but the final cut hasn’t been made. Now, remember to be careful and concentrate, and think about one thing:

Drop Dead.

The students gasped.

Silence ensued.

Yes, Drop Dead. The highest drop on the the hill. Wooden boards which followed a berm then stopped abruptly. Nothing but fresh air.

Remember, you can take the ramp to the right, or take the drop. It’s entirely your choice. You’re all capable. It’s the same technique you’ve been taught, just higher…

“A lot higher,” – said Matty.

“Yes, a lot higher,” confirmed Ms Symonds.

“If you take the drop, focus straight away on the little jump just after you land. Now, I’ll ride down first and wait at the drop. I’ll watch you down the trail, then hide under the drop and film you all go past. No matter what you choose, you’ll be on film.”

As Ev set off to position himself for filming, he heard Kayden barking orders at everyone. he gave the signal, then pressed record.

The smiling students cruised up and down the embankments which gave the trail its name. The first bike approached and Ev recognised the distinctive whirr of a bike he wished he could afford. He heard the violent screech of disc brakes as the rider succumbed to fear, and Brayden’s Canyon Strive rolled tentatively down the ramp. Three more carbon fibre contraptions repeated Brayden’s efforts, then the remaining students threw their bikes to the right and down the ramp.

Thud, whack, ouch!!!

A bike crashes to the ground in a tangle of limbs and metal. Ev peeks out expecting to see the trusty Malvern Star sprawled all over the trail, but instead he spots the shiny Megatower beside its owner writhing in pain. Ev zooms in cheekily on the whimpering Kayden, and while he decides whether to leave that shot in the final edit, he calls,

“Kayden, get off the trail!”

But it’s too late. Kayden submits to the pain and can only look skyward. The final rider whirls down the trail. Ev hears the tyres grip the berm and roll onto the boardwalk. He points the camera at the ramp to the right but at the last second senses the bike approaching the drop.

Is this it?

Is someone finally going to take on the drop?

Before he can mentally prepare for a mid-trail rescue of a broken-boned teenager, he sees it.

The front wheel separates itself from the wooden board and there’s no turning back. The back wheel follows and bike and rider fly out into the bright blue sky and fill the frame of the camera. It’s magnificent. The tropical afternoon sun dances off the frame of the bike to backlight the rider perfectly. The lens tracks the bike as it plunges toward the rocky trail with rider still in place. The danger is not over. The landing has to be stuck, and this is no mean feat from a drop of such height.

The rider sails over Kayden and his Megatower, and with perfect technique the hardtail lands gracefully on the trail and two slim legs cushion the blow, before sending the rider high up into the next berm and sailing over the ensuing jump.

Ev is already anticipating the reaction of the entire school body when they watch the footage on the big screen, and he runs out to catch the final shot. He points the lens at the long blonde pony tail as it snakes its way effortlessly down the trail.

A Request

“You’ll have to go back,”

Oh no, thought Tim, I’d really don’t want to. What will she say?

Tim was extremely reluctant to return and demand a refund, because of what had happened since he’d purchased the medicine from the chemist.

The specialist explained why Tim was entitled to a refund, and the difference between the correct medicine and the one he was given. Meanwhile, Tim weighed up the consequences of demanding a refund or forgetting the matter entirely. The hit to his wallet had been hard, but the hit to his dignity might be more severe, and more lasting.

“…and make sure you speak to the pharmacist directly, not just the front desk staff. And if they don’t want to give you a refund, call me straightaway, I’m happy to speak to them.”

Thoughts raced through Tim’s mind while he sat in the consultation room. I could just do nothing, the specialist might forget. But the doctor’s conscientiousness made that unlikely, and is why Tim made the four-hour round trip for the appointment.

The specialist continued explaining the mistake and the reason that Tim had broken out in red rashes from head to toe after taking just one tablet. Tim wasn’t completely focussed, but did hear the words:

“…ended up in hospital after taking that medicine…” Tim had been lucky.

I guess I have no choice, he surmised, but the task ahead soured his mood on the long drive home.

Tim’s finger hovered over the button.

Follow.

Should I? he pondered.

Should I request to follow her?

He’d been struck by her physical beauty as soon as he’d approached the counter, even as she was partially obscured by the cashier and the plethora of medicines which surrounded her. She’s obviously intelligent, too. She looks quite young but that might be the result of her genes, and she must have spent at least four or five years at university before taking up this current position. She’s not too young for a man of Tim’s vintage. She possessed the two qualities Tim genuinely admired in women – brains and beauty. He certainly didn’t subscribe to the the theory that men should never date a woman who is smarter than them. He craved an intellectual sparring partner. Maybe subconsciously he wanted intelligent children, maybe he just wanted someone who could converse. Either way, he knew he would like to get to know this woman more.

He felt his heart beat faster as his finger remained fixed over the button. He imagined the optimal outcome, and his heart beat faster again.

When he first entered the pharmacy, he thought he would be in and out in a few minutes, but he’d been unable to find the correct bottle of tablets, so approached the cashier, who wasn’t able to help.

“The pharmacist will be with you shortly,” she offered.

While he waited for the pharmacist to bring him the medicine, he surveyed the chemist aimlessly. Locals waiting for scripts. Parents buying cold and flu tablets. Tourists stocking up on sunblock and repellent. Then his eyes rested on the board.

The supervising pharmacist had a Sri Lankan or Indian name, while the pharmacist on duty had a name that stood out. It was uncommon in these parts. The pharmacist who had caught Tim’s eye was clearly not from the sub-continent, so she must be the owner of the second name. He rolled it over in his mind a few times, committing it to memory, and realised that unlike most people from this suburb, he had visited the land of her ancestors. He had an ‘in’, a conversation starter. He then tried to remember some of the words he’d picked up from his travels through that country. They trickled back, but then he remembered that those words belong to languages in the south, and her family name comes from the north. No problem, he still recalled a few words of the northern language – at least enough to surprise her. Maybe even impress her.

His finger continued to hover.

Is it creepy?

Will she think I’m a creep, a stalker?

Will she remember me from the pharmacy? We’d spoken for quite a while as she explained the tablets and their likeness to the ones I couldn’t find on the shelf. It was a typically mundane conversation that had been made substantially more enjoyable by her presence. Surely she will notice my profile pic when she sees the request.

Is it normal, is it flattering?

Lot’s of people meet online these days, via social media, via Tinder and all sorts of dating apps and dating sites. Millenials connect via socials, even if many of them don’t admit it – and the photogenic pharmacist was a millenial. People lived most of their lives online, so of course they could meet a partner online. COVID had even forced people to socialise entirely online, so sending an electronic request to initiate a connection with another person is surely somewhat normal these days.

On the other hand, is it too forward?

Will she wonder how I found her? If she remembers it was me, she will know that she never told me her name, nor asked for mine. She was definitely smart enough to deduce that I’d taken it from the board in the pharmacy. She was also smart enough to realise I’d committed the name to memory while in the store – after all, it was not a ‘common’ name.

She might think it was endearing that I’d gone to so much mental effort to remember her name, or she might find it very disconcerting. Some might even call it the early stages of identity theft, or cyber bullying. What’s more, the social media account looked like it hadn’t been updated for quite some time, so she might become suspicious upon seeing a follow request completely out of the blue.

He must think I’m single, she’ll also think. Did he check if I was wearing a wedding ring?

Yes, Tim certainly did. As soon as she emerged from behind her counter.

Will she think less of me for not saying anything in person? Should I have expressed my interest face to face in the pharmacy, upon first meeting? It was hardly a romantic setting. A chemist, surrounded by cures for illness, next to a shabby old man with all manner of health complaints waiting for who knows what medicine. And the middle-aged lady coughing through her nicotine-clogged lungs and showering the chemist with coronavirus: very romantic. Plus, she was giving me medicine, and knew what I was likely suffering. This is what people try so hard to hide on a date.

Will she think me cowardly for not speaking face to face, and for hiding behind a social media account to connect with someone?

His finger descended.

Requested.

Armed with the proof of purchase, the doctor’s business card and the bottle of offending pills, Tim approached the pharmacist.

“Um, hi…”

Image: Ilan Dov

Slogans for Bogans.

Australia’s new rulers are beholden to bogans,

and win their support with cheap empty slogans.

True leaders lead and make tough decisions,

but bogans treat truth with ingrained derision.

Our leader needs loyal and fast-breeding bogans,

so keeps them on leash with cheap empty slogans.

How good are slogans, and an arrogant smirk,

for replacing policy or actual work!

The Almighty Rupert runs free propaganda,

for a party with nothing but cheap tricks and slander.

Slogans are cover for scandal and vice;

an ignorant bogan will never think twice.

JobMaker, JobKeeper, Homebuilder, JobSeeker,

just more PR spin while the nation gets weaker.

The bogans believe he is fighting corona,

thanks to the monster behind the persona,

the faceless and scheming marketing masters,

who shield their puppet from self-made disasters.

Go to the football, be seen to drink beer

and ignorant bogans will laugh, clap and cheer.

Follow a team that is not your own,

your slogans will keep you entrenched on the throne.

Back to the football, sink some more beers,

and do little else for four more years.

Fool all the bogans with stage-managed drinking,

and gut public schools to stop them from thinking.

Boast to the bogans, you turned back the boats,

tell them we’re gert by one giant moat.

Change just one word in our national song,

don’t dredge up the past, we did nothing wrong!

He fled to Hawaii with the nation on fire,

his bogans took selfies with Scott the Messiah!

The branding of ScoMo

Put progress in SlowMo,

But now real Aussies

Want ScoMo to GoMo

Image: http://www.nypost.com

World War III.

The world was thrown into chaos. Bombs tore apart entire towns and the dead bodies piled up on the streets too quickly to be taken away or buried. The stench brought more tears to the eyes of those in constant mourning, and the corpses of deceased relatives provided cover from snipers and crazed gunmen. Drones battled for airspace and fighter jets blasted through the skies with such frequency the people had stopped checking if they were friend of foe.

The constant bombardment was deafening and frightening, and broken only by the cries of orphaned children.

Food was scarce. The hungry had already looted the stores and the fields. Stomachs rumbled in tune with the tanks, and the people grew accustomed to the rancid taste of permanently blackened skies.

Most people forget who they were fighting; forgot who the enemy was, or was supposed to be. In the early days, when the mediums of communication were still functioning, they listened to their leaders identify and attack the enemy with impassioned speeches. The enemy wore a certain uniform, spoke a certain tongue. Soon the patriotism wore thin and the increasingly vehement verbal attacks fell on deaf ears. The people fought for survival, not for their nations, or their leaders.

Despite the danger and hunger. Despite the destruction and the obliteration, a greater fear loomed. The fear of the MAD Button. The button of Mutually Assured Destruction which would release the nuclear weapons counties had been stockpiling in the name of deterrence and pragmatic foreign policy.

Nothing would survive.

The people asked themselves, how did we get here?

It all started on a lunch line.

Yes, a simple lunch line preceding the buffet at an international summit for the world’s super powers. The summit had been convened to combat the latest pandemic, the impending environmental disaster and the refugee crisis. It had also promised to deliver world peace. It plunged the world into war.

The disaster began when event organisers suddenly announced a casual outdoor setting for lunch on the final day, deliberately forcing world leaders to line up for their food, assuring attendees it would,

“…pivot their personal and professional brand towards an empathetic and approachable persona, while positioning leaders as down-to-earth…”

Entourages hastily consulted brand managers, and wardrobes were adjusted accordingly. Donald ignored his minders and snapped on his famous red baseball cap, “…to protect me from the sun” he claimed. Leaders were reminded to smile and keep conversations light, and to remember that cameras could now capture them from every angle.

While the world’s most powerful people grabbed a plate and stood in line, trying desperately to hide their discomfort and impatience, a voice was heard from the back of the line.

“Scotty, let me in,” Donald called to his friend when he spotted the fried chicken piled high.

“Um,” Scotty deliberated, assessing the personal and political risk of letting his friend push in and jump the queue. His minders were snacking on granola bars back in the makeshift office, so Scotty had only a few seconds to make a decision that would have irreversible ramifications.

He’s an ally, his mind told him, but he’s probably the most hated leader in the world, even more hated than me. Well, I’m not hated, just ignored really – that’s why they all walked away from me after the joint photo and left me standing there like the kid no one plays with. Luckily I had my phone in my pocket and I could pretend to check some emails. I think I got away with it.

Should I let Donald in? Everyone’s looking, especially Vladimir and Xinping. What will Aussies think? My supporter base loves Donald, and I can’t upset them. But even people in his own country are getting sick of him, what if he doesn’t last, what if I align myself with a failure, a loser? Will I lose votes? How will it affect me? I know Peter wants my job, and Rupert created Donald before he created me.

Then there’s Xinping. He doesn’t look happy. Will this mean more tariffs, more restrictions on exports, more lost votes?

Who would buy our beef, wheat, our coal…? If my party loses farmers and miners, we’re stuffed. Gosh I wish my staff were here, they’d know what to do. They never told me I’d have to make decisions when they made me PM.

“Drink beer,” they said

“Go to the footy,” they said.

And Vladimir, he’s always looking for a fight, or a chance to take his shirt off.

Time kept ticking away…

I could ignore him, Scotty thought. I could play with my phone again, or talk to the woman behind me. What’s her name again? Angie, Andrea, Annabel – I think it starts with an A and she seems to be important, she talks a lot at meetings, nagging us all to do something about electric cars – nagging about something else – women eh! Wait, she’s the one who gave me the dirty look when I mentioned clean coal – nah, I’m not talking to her.

Donald called again. His stomach was rumbling, like the war tanks he had just sold to the leader of a nation he’d never heard of, while other leaders discussed plans for world peace.

“Scotty, come on man, let me in”

Spilt seconds ticked by. Scotty felt the sweat run down his back and hoped it wasn’t showing on his face. Yes or no. I have to decide, right now.

With a smirk, he said yes.

Donald strolled triumphantly to the front of the line, beside his friend Scotty. Vladimir and Xi fumed, and declared in unison:

“This is war!”

Image: http://www.istockphotos.com

Pacific Island players boycott the NRL and Super Rugby.

Players with Pacific Island heritage have boycotted the National Rugby League and Australian Super Rugby competitions to protest Australia’s inaction on climate change and the damage to the homes of their ancestors.

Players whose families come from Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have thrown the competitions into disarray and are refusing to play until the Australian government and the Australian people take real action to combat the disastrous effects of the climate crisis on low-lying islands.

“Pacific Island nations are under threat, and Australia is largely to blame” began a joint statement from the players. The climate crisis is already having a devastating impact on island nations throughout the South Pacific. Rising sea levels carry saltwater into fresh water lakes and onto farms where crops are destroyed. Unpredictable seasons make farming more difficult and more severe weather causes human and economic damage throughout the region. Natural disasters are an increasing threat and entire nations could be underwater as sea levels continue to rise. Australia is a major contributor to the climate crisis. It has the highest per-capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth, due largely to a dependence on the fossil fuel industry, land clearing and traditional agricultural practices. It is lagging in the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and incentives for household solar installation are being removed. Alternative transport is not being embraced, and new coal mines are being proposed, even on the fringes of world heritage listed national parks. “When this country starts acting at a day-to-day level and a national level to reverse the effects of the climate crisis, then we will return to the NRL and Super Rugby competitions.” The NRL and Australian Super Rugby teams have been left scrambling to find elite players since the shock announcement, as their teams rely heavily on talented players with Pasifika heritage. Both codes are desperately searching reserve grade teams, country teams and overseas competitions for players before fans, media networks and sponsors desert the codes. “The only people who are happy about this are commentators like Ray Warren who can’t pronounce our names, but otherwise it will decimate the sports at the elite level.” The players are adamant that this decision was not taken lightly. “We love our sports. We love the competition and know how lucky we are to make a living out of the game we love. We are sacrificing a lot personally with this boycott, but that is how serious and desperate the situation is in the countries where some of us were born, and where all of us have family.” The players will continue to play their respective sports, but not for their existing NRL or Super Rugby teams. “Most of the boys will keep playing at local club level, to stay sharp and fit. A lot of us are also thinking of playing in New Zealand, because the travel bubble just opened and at least the Kiwis are trying to do something to protect the environment. That means we can play for NZ-based Super Rugby teams, or for the New Zealand Warriors. Looks like the Warriors will finally win a premiership.” Indigenous Australian players have joined the move, as the farms and mines driving climate change sit on their land, and Aboriginal people witness the destruction first hand. The boycott of the NRL will also include the State of Origin competition. This means that NSW and Queensland will be without male players such as Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou, Blake Ferguson, Xavier Coates, Jack Bird, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Cody Walker, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Tyson Frizell, Junior Paulo, Jarome Luai, Jayden Su’A, Stephen Crichton, David Fifita, Felise Kaufusi, Payne Haas, Daniel Saifiti and Josh Papali’i.” Australia must now take decisive action to protect the natural environment, if it wants to see the best players competing in the NRL and Super Rugby competitions, as Pasifika players have promised to stand firm. “We are prepared to do this in order to save the lands of our families and ancestors.” Image: Stephen Tremain

 

Free show bags at the Easter Show.

How much have you spent on show bags at the Sydney Royal Easter Show? How much are you planning to spend, or how much do your kids expect you to spend?

What if those show bags were free?

In the early days of the Easter Show, show bags were all free.

In the good old days the show was held at the Royal Agricultural Society grounds at Moore Park, in what is now Fox Studios and the EQ complex beside the SCG, and show bags were sample bags. The bags were distributed by various companies and were originally quite useful. They included products like food staples, soap and laundry liquid, and allowed families to stock up on essential items for free.

Realising the popularity and the potential of the bags, confectionary companies began to offer a sample of their existing products, or a new product, in the hope that crowds would enjoy their products then rush to stores to buy more in the weeks that followed. It was also effective PR for the companies.

The bags themselves were much smaller, and were paper bags which carried the logo of the company. They contained a limited number of products which guests normally snacked on as they wandered the agricultural displays or admired the prize winning cows. They did not hang heavily off the handles of prams while burdened parents lumbered from ride to ride behind children high on sugar.

At one point, the samples were given out for free in the mornings, then sold at a small cost in the afternoon.

It is a stark contrast to the show bags of today. Companies from a diverse array of industries compete with each other to outsell their rivals, in a massive hall that could house an entire airline fleet. Bags are now predominantly plastic, as are many of the contents. Food and confectionary companies still dominate the selection, but pressured parents can now splash out on bags from football clubs, Hollywood movies, toy companies, lifestyle programs, cartoon characters and even Aussie rock legends. In the high-tech present, bags are listed online with a description of their contents, and sell for as much as $30.00.

Show bags can even be ordered online and delivered to your door. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Isn’t the show bag part of the grand experience of attending the show, negotiating the crowds, seeing the livestock and fruit stands, watching the woodchopping, eating dodgy takeaway and vomiting on the pirate ship?

The sample bags belong to an era when the Easter Show was more focussed on the agricultural aspect. It was dedicated to bringing together farmers from across the state to socialise, network and compete for best in show, and to educate and entertain city-slickers about life on the land.

Pacific Island footballers refuse to play for Australia.

Players of Pacific Island heritage are refusing to represent Australia in various football codes until Australia takes action to halt the climate crisis which threatens the lands of their ancestors.

Players from Rugby League and Rugby Union whose families hail from countries such as Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have united in an attempt to force the Australian government and its people to take real action which protects the environment and their homelands.

“Pacific Island nations are under threat,” began a joint statement from the players.

“Australia must stop causing the climate crisis, and must start fixing it. Until this happens, players of Pacific Island heritage will not make themselves eligible for national teams such as the Wallabies, Wallaroos, Kangaroos and Jillaroos – or Rugby Sevens teams.”

The climate crisis is already having a devastating impact on island nations throughout the South Pacific. Rising sea levels carry saltwater into fresh water lakes and onto farms where crops are destroyed. Unpredictable seasons make farming more difficult and more severe weather causes human and economic damage throughout the region. Natural disasters are an increasing threat and entire nations could be underwater as sea levels continue to rise.

Australia is a major contributor to the climate crisis. It has the highest per-capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth, due largely to a dependence on the fossil fuel industry, land clearing and traditional agricultural practices. It is lagging in the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and incentives for household solar installation are being removed. Alternative transport is not being embraced, and new coal mines are being proposed, even on the fringes of world heritage listed national parks.

Average Australians continue to vote for the politicians which implement the destructive policies, and Aussies create substantial waste and pollution in their daily lives.

“Three politicians even joked about our islands going underwater,” the players recounted.

“Peter Dutton was caught joking about it to the current Prime Minister, who claims to be a fan of rugby league, and a former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who loves rugby union. We’ll see if they’re still laughing when there are no Pacific Island players in their national teams – and whether Morrison will want to run water for a team that is always losing. Our players will also refuse selection in the Prime Minister’s XIII and XV”

The move will severely weaken national teams. 19 of the 44 players in the men’s rugby union team, the Wallabies, have Pacific Island heritage, while the women’s team, the Wallaroos, contains 14 of 31 squad members. Players like Ellia Green will also withdraw from the women’s rugby seven’s squad, as the team defends its Olympic gold medal in Tokyo later this year.

Indigenous Australian players have joined the move. The farms and mines driving climate change sit on their land, and Aboriginal people witness the destruction first hand.

“So, now you have to imagine a Kangaroos team without players like Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou, Blake Ferguson, Xavier Coates, Jack Bird, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Cody Walker, Dane Gagai, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Tyson Frizell, David Fifita, Felise Kaufusi, Payne Haas, Daniel Saifiti and Josh Papali’i.”

The players stressed that this was not an easy or spontaneous decision.

“We love playing for Australia. We are proud Australians, and put our heart and soul into every game we play for this country. We did not take this decision lightly, and only did it because the situation is desperate and action must be taken now. We still have family in the Pacific, and we took this action in the hope that the Australian people and politicians will start taking notice, and start taking action – now.”

The talented players will still play the game they love, even if not for Australia.

“We will play for the nations of our ancestors. Jason Taumalolo and other league players went back to play for Tonga a few years ago, and they beat Australia fair and square. A lot of league and union fans have long wondered what would happen if the Islander players united for their homelands, soon we will find out.”

The players are acutely aware that most Australians want action on climate change.

“When that happens, we will proudly pull on the green and gold.”

Image: Getty Images

Indigenous Australian musicians.

The new generation

Baker Boy sings an attractive brand of upbeat hip hop in English and his ancestral language of Yolgnu Matha. Denzel Baker often teams up with his cousin Yirrmal in songs like ‘Marryuna’ and ‘Ride’.

Jessica Mauboy is a successful singer and actress, who performs original pop and R&B songs and appeared in the movie The Sapphires. She achieved success with ‘Little Things’, ‘Selfish’ and ‘Butterfly’.

Electric Fields typify the new generation. The duo of vocalist Zaachariaha Fielding and keyboard player and producer Michael Ross combine modern electric-soul music with Aboriginal culture and sing in Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and English.

JK-47 – Jacob Paulson, known professionally as JK47, is an Indigenous rapper and musician whose debut album is ‘Made for This’.

Alice Skye is a Wergaia singer and songwriter. In 2017, she was the Triple J Unearthed National Indigenous Winner.

Briggs, aka A B Original, aka Senator Briggs, aka the guy from Hilltop Hoods. Adam Briggs is rapper, record label owner, comedy writer, actor and author.

The pioneers

Many of the pioneering Aboriginal musicians sing heart-felt songs about the suffering and survival of Indigenous Australians, in ballads and folk music.

Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter form a highly respected duo who have written and performed many songs throughout their long careers. Songs such as ‘They Took the Children Away’ recount the Stolen Generation, during which the Australian Government stole Aboriginal children from their families. The husband and wife duo also campaigned tirelessly for Aboriginal rights. Hunter died in 2010, aged 54.

Jimmy Little was the most well-known Aboriginal singer of his era. During his six-decade career, he sang country and gospel music in the style of Nat King Cole and Jim Reeves. His won acclaim with the gospel song ‘Royal Telephone’ and the album ‘Messenger’. Little passed away in 2012.

Kev Carmody is an award winning singer / songwriter who is best known for recording the song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ with Paul Kelly. Tracks such as “Black Deaths in Custody” and “Thou Shalt Not Steal” describe the ignorance and oppression experienced by Indigenous Australians.

Frank Yamma is a Pitjantjatjara singer-songwriter who performed as a solo and with his band Piranpa. His albums include ‘Countryma’n and ‘Uncle’, and feature heartfelt lyrics and moving delivery.

Ursula Yovich is best known as an actress, but is also an accomplished musician. She has appeared in numerous TV series, movies and theatre productions, and has won many awards for musical scores, scriptwriting and acting.

Rock on…

The yidaki, or didgeridoo, seems to combine perfectly with rock music, which might explain the popularity of Indigenous rock bands. Yothu Yindi is the most famous Aboriginal band, and the group from Yirrkala in Arnhem Land shot to fame with their song ‘Treaty’. They mix Yolngu Matha and English, and combine traditional instruments with the sounds of modern rock in multiple albums of songs about their culture and the issues facing their people.

Warumpi Band also plays hard rock, but their sound comes from Papunya in central Australia. They wrote the song ‘My Island Home’, which was popularised by Torres Strait singer Christine Anu, and they gave Australia other songs such as ‘Blackfella / Whitefella’, ‘Breadline’ and ‘Fitzroy Crossing’.

Tiddas was one of the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s bands, made up of Dr Lou Bennett, Sally Dastey and Amy Saunders. Their lyrics were fierce and bold, addressing racism, dispossession, domestic violence and a raft of other social issues.

Dan Sultan is an alternative rock singer-songwriter and guitarist, actor and author. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2010 he won Best Male Artist and Best Blues & Roots Album for his second album, Get Out While You Can.

A little bit country…

Troy Cassar Daley is one of the most successful and popular Australian country music stars. He has won multiple Golden Guitar awards and many other awards during a long career.

The Pigram Brothers were a seven-piece band from Broome in Western Australia. Heavily involved in musical theatre, the formed the original backing band for ‘Bran Nue Dae’.

The Donovans – A country music band comprising brothers Michael, Ashley, Mervyn as well as Michael’s eldest daughter Shalina, plus Robert Graham on drums. Mervyn’s daughter Casey is also a successful singer.

Traditional

The Yolgnu people of north-east Arnhem Land have retained much of their culture and share this through song.

Gurrumul played drums, keyboards, guitar (a right-hand-strung guitar played left-handed) and didgeridoo, and attracted a loyal following with the clarity of his singing voice and songs in Yolngu Matha and English. He was once a member of Yothu Yindi and another band from the Top End, Saltwater Band. Gurrumul was the most commercially successful Aboriginal Australian musician at the time of his death in 2017.

Djalu Gurruwiwi – The master of the yidaki. The elder from Arnhem Land is regarded as one of the most skilled performers on the yidaki, the Yolngu word for didgeridoo. At festivals such as Garma, in Yirrkala, Djalu is feted by yidaki fans from all over the world. He is the subject of the film Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy.

William Barton is a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, is widely recognised as one of australia’s leading didgeridoo layers and composers.

Collaboration

Black Arm Band is an organisation which brings together blackfulla and whitefulla musicians with diverse musical backgrounds. Founded by Steven Richardson in 2005, the group is also committed to ongoing educational and development work in remote Aboriginal communities. The name refers to a speech by former Prime Minister John Howard who labelled a balanced version of Australian history as a Black Armband view of history.

Image: Warner Music

Indigenous Australian movies.

Searching for a good movie? Forced into yet another COVID-19 lockdown, or looking to broaden your cinematic experience?

Why not watch some Indigenous Australian movies?

Movies featuring Indigenous Australian writers, actors, directors and stories depict the struggles of Australia’s first people. They include movies set in rural and remote communities, city centres, and stories from contemporary Australia, as well as life before colonisation. The list below includes various titles which tell the diverse experience of the world’s oldest surviving culture.

The Old

Jedda (1955)

Jedda is the first Australian feature film to be shot in colour and the first to star two Aboriginal actors, Robert Tudawali and Ngarla Kunoth, in lead roles. Jedda is born on a cattle station in the Northern Territory, and is given to the wife of the station boss when her mother dies. Jedda is forbidden from learning her own culture and from being with local indigenous man Marbuck. The film is also the first to compete for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or award.

We of the Never Never, Bitter Springs and Walkabout are older movies featuring stories of Aboriginal people. They recount issues of contact between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people, especially in outback regions of Australia. Many of these films show their age, and while they usually attempt to be sympathetic to Indigenous people, they do so from a non-Aboriginal perspective and sometimes perpetuate colonial assumptions.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)

Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Kenneally, the story is about an exploited Aboriginal man who commits murder and goes into hiding. It is inspired by the true story of Jimmy Governor, and involves a police chase through the Australian bush.

Where The Green Ants Dream (1984)

Miners v Aboriginal people. It’s an old story; one that is still being told. This movie explores the clash between a mining company and the Aboriginal landholders who fight to protect the site of the green ant dreaming. Stars Yolngu actors Wandjuk Marika and Roy Marika, whose own land in northern Australia was stolen by mining companies.

Tudawali (1988)

A movie about a movie – or more specifically, about the star of a movie. The film traces the life of Robert Tudawali who payed a lead role in the movie Jedda. Tudawali died from severe bruns at about 40 years of age, and lived between two worlds in Sydney and his humble home near Darwin. The film stars Ernie Dingo as the lead character, and examines the racism towards Aboriginal people in Australian society.

The Fringe Dwellers (1986)

A depiction of an Aboriginal family living on the fringes of Australian society, who try to move from the fringes into the mainstream.

Radiance (1993)

An examination of family. Three sisters are brought together by the death of their mother, and the reunion reveals family secrets. The movie helped launch the successful career of Deborah Mailman.

Blackfellas (1993)

An Aboriginal man is caught between his allegiance to his people and his aspirations to escape the cycle of self-destructive behaviour – a conundrum facing many Indigenous Australians to this day.

The Yolngu Collection

The Yolngu people live in North East Arnhem, in the tropical north of Australia. They retain much of their traditional culture, and share this via numerous movies:

Yolngu Boy (2001)

Yolngu Boy follows the lives of three boys from Yolngu land as they cope with the transition from childhood to adulthood, while they find their way as Aboriginal people in contemporary Australian society.

Ten Canoes (2006)

Ten Canoes goes back in time. It is also set in North-East Arnhem Land, but is set in a time apart from colonisation. It tells a traditional story of a brother attempting to claim the youngest wife of his elder brother, and the consequences of that attempt. It is the first ever movie entirely filmed in Australian Aboriginal languages, and is partly in colour and partly in black and white, with a narrator explaining the story.

Manganinnie (1980)

Manganinnie is an Aboriginal woman who survives a Black Line raid which claims the life of her husband, Meenopeekameena. Following the raid, Manganinnie searches for her tribe with a lost white girl Joanna. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Beth Roberts, and even though it is set in Tasmania, it features a cast of predominantly Yolngu actors. The movie is also titled Darkening Flame.

High Ground (2020)

Set against the stunning landscapes of 1930s Arnhem Land, it follows young Aboriginal man Gutjuk, who teams up with ex-soldier Travis to track down Baywara – the most dangerous warrior in the Territory, who is also his uncle. Stars well-known Australian actors Simon Baker and Jack Thompson, as well as new faces like Jacob Junior Nayinggul

The new

Warwick Thornton films:

Thornton has emerged as one of the pre-eminent Australian film directors, and one of the most highly-acclaimed Indigenous directors.

Sweet Country (2017)

“I killed a white man,” says character Sam Kelly, an Aboriginal worker on a remote cattle station. The act of self-defense sets off a man hunt through the Australian desert and is filmed in the style of a western. The plot highlights the treatment of Indigenous Australians by Europeans.

Samson and Delilah (2009)

Thornton’s first well-known movie, it charts the very real experience of Indigenous teenagers Samson and Delilah, who escape their remote community and head to Alice Springs to try to create a better life. Deals with the confronting issues of glue sniffing and societal collapse in Aboriginal communities.

Popular films

Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)

The story of the Stolen Generation. For many years, Aboriginal children were deliberately stolen from their families all over Australia, especially if they were of mixed ancestry. In this movie, three young girls follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, which runs for hundreds of kilometres across central Australia, to find their way back home after being stolen from their families. A depiction of a shameful period of Australia’s past, which many non-Aboriginal people still downplay or ignore.

Top End Wedding (2019)

A movie, or a promotion for Northern Territory tourism? It works as both. A visually stunning romantic comedy starring Miranda Tapsell, who plays a city-slicker with ten days to find her missing mother before she can marry. A cinematic tour of the Northern Territory, and an introduction to life on the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.

The Sapphires (2012)

An all-star cast. Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell and Aussie pop star Jessica Mauboy star in a movie about four young Aboriginal sisters from a remote mission who are plucked from obscurity to sing for American troops in Vietnam during the war. Another movie based on a true story.

Bran Nue Dae (2009)

The musical. Bran Nue Dae was adapted by Rachel Perkins from the stage show of the same name by, and it tells the story of the coming of age of an Indigenous teenager on a road trip in the late 1960s.

Diverse titles

Toomelah – 2011

The Tall Man – 2011

Beneath Clouds – 2002

One Night The Moon – 2001

Mabo – 2012

A film about the life of Eddie Mabo, famous for a legal challenge against the Australian government and the notion of Terra Nullius which has justified the theft of Aboriginal land since colonisation.

Contact – 2009

Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy – 1990

Goldstone – 2016

Bedevil – 1993

A ghost story. The film is the first feature directed by an Australian Aboriginal woman, Tracey Moffatt and it challenges racial stereotypes in Australian society. Moffat also directed he short film Nice Coloured Girls (1987)

The Tracker – 2002

In My Blood It Runs – 2019

Bush Mechanics – 2001

Not a movie, but a comedic documentary series with a cult following. The low-budget documentary series follows a group of young men from the community of Yuendumu in the desert of the Northern Territory, as they try to fix their beat up old cars with material from the bush. Did you know you could stuff spinifex into a tyre instead of an inner tube? Very funny, and educational.

Redfern Now (2012) is also not a film, but a TV series. It does, however, reveal the reality of life in Redfern, an inner-city suburb of Sydney home to a community of Aboriginal people. Written, produced and directed by Aboriginal people.

Many of these movies are realist drama. Many of them are not happy movies, because the experience of Aboriginal people in Australia is not happy. Many of the movies are confronting. Some feature well-known stars such as David Gulpilil and Deborah Mailman, while others showcase first-time or unknown cast members. They are all entertaining, and provide an insight into real life in Australia.

Where are they now?

Where are the actors who make these films? Are they successful, are they still performing? Yes and no. Famous faces like Ernie Dingo, David Gulpilil, Miranda Tapsell and Deborah Mailman continue to star in movies and TV series, while other actors, especially the children, seem to disappear from screens altogether.

Are the stories true?

In many cases yes. Some are direct recounts of lived experiences, some are based heavily on a real-life event. This fact alone highlights the mistreatment of Indigenous people in Australia since colonisation.

Where can I find them?

Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services carry these titles. Otherwise, just google them and you should find them somewhere.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Jarryd Hayne saves NSW Premier.

Jarryd Hayne’s substandard performance in the 2009 NRL Grand Final has saved former NSW Premier Nathan Rees from great embarrassment. Hayne performed well below expectation during the Grand Final loss to the Melbourne Storm and saved Rees from having to fulfil a promise made to the people of Sydney and NSW in the lead up to the game.

Rees promised to name a new Sydney train The Hayne Train in honour of the Dally M Medallist and the season’s most outstanding player. The train would have been painted in the blue and gold of the Parramatta Eels, and would have run on the western line between Central and Parramatta, as well as the western suburbs where Hayne grew up.

If Hayne and the Eels had found a way to overcome the star-studded Storm team, Rees would have used taxpayers’ money to name a train after a football superstar who was twice accused of sexual assault, and recently found guilty of the second case. Hayne is likely to serve time in prison for the assault which he committed on the night of the NRL Grand Final in 2018.

Considering the state of trains in metropolitan Sydney, that train could still be on the tracks today.

Jarryd Hayne saved the NSW Blues on many occasions with his brilliance during State of Origin games. This time he saved the NSW premier with a poor performance.

Nathan Rees must be very relieved.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au