Archive for May, 2012

She scares me,

The 1st Form* English teacher.

Thin, bird-like features, beehive hair.

Palpable fear,

Like walking through Magpie territory

In spring.

I know an attack is imminent.
I hope I’m prepared.

Mrs Skelly’s methodology,

Students reading aloud.

Class starts with harsh high-pitched command.



Dutifully I read.


* 1st Form in Secondary School. It s now Year 7. Students are generally turning 13 at this stage.








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We are wearing the jerseys with the white band across the middle. From left to right is: Paul Bardon, Max Cowan,  Steve Cameron, Greg Mobbs, Mick Harpley (bending)

“I just like ’em rolled down,
Dunno why.”

Not good footy etiquette

And being practical

Socks “up” would hold shinpads

To protect shins from

Kicking, raking, & threshing

Of hookers and props

In scrums that are contests.

I don’t like shinpads, either!

Coach & parents reluctantly sigh:

“Just win the scrums, Max.”

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Friday ritual

Football boot preparation

Clean, polish, shine.

Thick white cotton tape wrapped ankles & bridges.

Respectful of the game, teammates, opposition.

Shiny black boots laced with thick white cotton tape

Extra lengths wrapped around ankles & bridges.

Ready for fields dusty … or muddy.

A ritual loved.

Contrasting school shoes

Scuffed by kicking the can

And reluctance to polish.

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School canteen, full of students.

Queuing, sitting, eating,

Chatting, laughing.

I’m seated near the entrance when …

Hell breaks loose!!

Commotion, screams, panic,

I dash, look back.

A cocktail of effluence,

Is spraying across induced chaos.

Garden hose connected to sewerage.

Releases Brownian motion in student body.

Illustrative science?

Innovative boys!

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Nervous, tentative,

Feeling small.

New faces, all unsmiling, unsure.

Familiar faces comforting.

Look, there’s one …

“Hi Max.”

Old Penrith Primary colleague,

Peter Herrmann.

Chatting reveals news of my being

Dux of Penrith South.

Peter comments:

“Geez, must’ve been dumb there!!”

No arrogance, no malice.


No harm comes from humble pie!

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The choice is between:

Assigned local school,

Nepean High School,


Hurlstone Agricultural College

Nearest selective school.

Headmaster Smith suggests local is best,

Teacher Mr Bruce, values the school

Selecting its students.

My choice!!

Todays route using M4, M7 is around 40 mins. Imagine 1968 route.

Hours travel, friendless, disciplined,


Nearby, friends, laid back.

It doesn’t seem a choice at all.

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Great reason for a city trip, entertainment.

Theatre, music, musical theatre.

Matinee performances preferred

But love the night trips,

And a sleepy late-night car-ride.

An all time personal favourite

Becomes favoured by schools for

Student concerts.

Musical adaptation of Dickens’

Oliver Twist.

Oliver! by Lionel Bart

At The Theatre Royal.


In 1968 the film of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! was released. Ron Moody’s performance of Fagin was wonderful.

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The change,

New school, elevated responsibility,

Captaincy confuses loyalties

School loyalty and student loyalty.

Imposed religious duties

Somewhat resisted,

And enforced limiting of distractions,

No TV, no “treehouse gang” (or the like),

The Medal.

In gold letters on shiny maple honours board,

And medal awarded,

1967 Dux.

Gives me choice for high school.

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William Street 1965 – Photo: Wolfgang Sievers. Held by State Library of Victoria

Driving along William Street

Night rain, sparkling

Lights shine, shining surfaces reflect

Refract, multiply

My head turns, twists

At fractals of

Colourful neon lights shining down,

Mirrored in rain-drizzled road

Flash, polished cars – Rolls, Mercs, Jags –

Slide, illuminated above & below.

Hypnotised, impressed, my conclusion is drawn.

“Roger, Sydney is rich!”













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“I’ve tried , Mr Smith,

I don’t know why I can’t remember it?”

The Headmaster is exasperated by

My continuing to read rather than recite

The Lord’s Prayer to assemblies.

Two terms, 25 readings.

We both have

Resigned to reading rather than reciting.

I’m very pleased.

Pressure relieved, absolved from guilt.


* This Short Memory relates to two earlier Short Memories. The first one was 91. Ignorance exposed, prayer answered and the second was 108. Encouragement or warning? Stop reading, start leading.

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