Thursday, April 25, 2024

Rising at dawn on ANZAC Day – revisiting a long and personal story

Waking before dawn on ANZAC Day I suddenly thought I’d take part in my own one-person Dawn Service by thinking quietly about those in my own extended family who had been to war. That’s my five uncles all of whom fought in World War 2 – and survived – with a sense of humour and a string of medals. It’s also my family-in-law – my father-in-law and mother-in-law who were both conscripted into the German Army. My father-in-law once said to me ‘I’d had enough of armies’. My under-age father tried in vain to join up to be with the brothers he adored, but his father refused to sign the necessary papers – luckily, otherwise I might not be here, part of a later generation, remembering them all with great sadness.

It's ironic that we make such a big thing of ANZAC Day on this date, which celebrates a pointless battle in a pointless war. Unlike World War 2, where the democratic world stood against the scourge of fascism, in World War 1 it’s hard to imagine two combatants more similar or more interlinked by culture and history. 

Air and ground crew with Beaufort bomber, Camden UK September 1944. My uncle, Jack Cassidy, is eighth from the right in the second row from the front, with the khaki hat cover on.

However too many of our politicians love uniforms and posturing and remembering the dead (who fortunately can’t answer back) while neglecting the living – the veterans harmed in their service to Australia. If it helps with re-election, that’s a bonus.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Returning to reading – finding the best of all worlds

It’s a strange time we live in – but then, has any time not been a strange time. I often think that there is no way on Earth that I would ever want to live in an earlier era, before medicine was so developed, when the average life expectancy was in the mid 30s, when life for most people was a short spell of drudgery punctuated by poverty and fear. I'm making the most of it. Lately I’ve started to balance my fascination with the easy-earned opinion of the online universe with a return to reading writing, as distinct from glancing at jotting.

I grew up in the era of mass polio, where every child knew someone who was consigned to an iron lung and fear was everywhere. Then suddenly vaccination appeared and our generation embraced it with relief. In our day the way you became protected from a raft of diseases was to catch them and – if you were lucky enough to survive – when you eventually recovered, you were inoculated. Unfortunately, having spent hundreds of years dragging itself out of the Dark Ages, large chunks of humanity seem hell bent of dragging us back.

 The Boulten and Watt steam engine, Powerhouse Museum.

Easier to be connected than ever before
I like this well-connected time of ours, where I can find information (though not always knowledge) at the drop of a hat – if I’m wearing a hat, that is, which unfortunately in this country of extreme heat most people don’t seem to bother with. It’s a time where it is easier to be connected to those who are important in your life than ever before – no matter where they are on the planet.