Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It Comes Back To Bite Ya.

I’ve been a bit confused recently. I had thought my life and its surrounds were back in balance, and that all was well with the world.

You see, I’m a great believer in karma. I don’t necessarily mean some kind of mystical energy thing, but certainly I think that people reap what they sow. Do unto others and all that. Treat someone badly, and at some point it will come back to haunt you. Or, as a friend puts it, “Be careful how you deal with others. It’ll always come back to bite ya on the bum.”

Recently, someone was particularly nasty and vengeful to me, and it impacted on me. They were rather manipulative, underhanded, dishonest and it hurt me. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t going to lower myself to their standard, so I let it go.

And then I heard that someone else had done the same thing to this person. I won’t say I was happy about it, as I don’t like to see anyone being like that, but there was a certain amount of satisfaction that karma was still operating.

But then only a few days later I learned that this person came out on top. And it really annoyed me. What happened to karma? Justice? Where’s the lesson for those that were looking on?

When students complain to me about other students getting away with something, I always remind them that they were lucky this once, but if it’s regular behaviour they’ll get caught out at some point.

With this person I’m starting to hear it’s regular behaviour. And so I must say I have my hopes up. At some point I feel it will all come a cropper for this person. If you act like that, it’ll catch up with you. We never expect it, but we always should.

Which means somewhere along the line something will happen to this person. Or maybe they’ll reincarnate as something lowly – maybe a gnat, or a member of a boyband.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Take A Chance And Support Those That Support Us.

Christmas with the family was wonderful, four days of food and laughter. A lot of fun but now I'd arrived back in my wife's home town and I ready to buy some music.

Sure, I can get most stuff back home and what I can't find I can always order online, but some of the more obscure stuff is not readily available in Australia and the postage from the UK can be as much (or even more) than the disc. So I decided to grab some of this stuff while I was here and save on the postage.

Last week in Glasgow I was in a fantastic independent music store, and they had some of the stuff I was looking for - but it was more than I expected to pay and the queues at the registers were very very long. So I decided to try again after Christmas, when I was down in England.

But here in my wife's town there isn't anything independent, and the chain store was the same as the other chain stores all over the world.  They had very little I was interested in. And then it occurred to me that this one store, this one chain pretty much controls the music the people in this town listen to.

Then I realised it wasn't that different to where I am in Australia. I am a little better off though, because I'm in the suburbs rather than a town, so I can get a little more by traveling a little further afield. And there is one reasonably local chain that has a fairly good indies and alternative section.

That's only one of the reasons why crap rules the airwaves and I don't listen to the radio.

Go into an independent store and buy some music you wouldn't normally listen to.  Take a chance, or play before you buy.  Help the independents, both stores and artists, and get some music with some bite.

Have fun, and enjoy the holidays. Topshop, Topshop.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twenty-nine Years Fly By.

The only thing I knew before I went into the pub last night was the name of the band, Rubber Soul. Yet just before they started playing I told my companion that they would open with ‘I Saw Her Standing There.’ OK, with a name like that there was a fair chance they would play Beatles stuff, but to be absolutely sure of which song they would open with is pretty impressive. How did I know it? I have no idea, just another mystery in this universe.

Of course it got me thinking about the fabs, and particularly John’s death. The anniversary was just a few weeks ago.

I could have sworn it was a Friday, but I’ve just checked online and it can’t have been. It was an evening, and I was working my part time job at a local supermarket. I think school had finished for the year, but I was working and still had several hours to spend in the deep freeze and dairy case. Another schoolboy came in, someone we worked with, someone who was always a bit of a smart-alec, and told us that John Lennon was dead.

He said it with a grin, in that schoolboy kind of way, and I didn’t believe him. I figured he knew about my Beatles infatuation and that he was having a laugh. A bit later, when someone else mentioned it, I presumed it was a publicity stunt. After all, John had just released his first album in over five years and he probably needed all the advertising and publicity he could get. I thought I’d get home and find out it was all OK, a mistake or a hoax, and that John would be on TV making some quip about how he was very much alive.

Of course, as we all know, he wasn’t.

Others went of to early morning vigils in the city centre, my friend and I talked about wearing black armbands to school – but didn’t get around to finding any black material. So the two of us sat around and played Beatle and Lennon albums till late. And we talked.

Something similar happened a few years later when George passed away. In some ways that one was more upsetting. George always seemed like the nicest, the most down to earth, the most honest of the four lads.

And then there were two.

I’ve previously written about how Paul’s music no longer interests me, and Ringo hasn’t had a decent album since the early 70s. Drag out the remastered Beatles, throw on some early 70s solo stuff (be choosy) and crank them up. If you’re looking for new music, go and pick up a Wilco album instead.

And have a wonderful Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Home Is Where...

I don't know the chap upstairs - I've never met him at all, but he has excellent taste in books.

I'm currently in Scotland, staying with a friend in Glasgow, and when I was going out today I noticed a few bags of recyclables and a bag of books - and lying on the top was a biography of Bill Hicks. Now this is a book I've seen before and wanted to read, so my friend knocked on the neighbour's door and asked whether the books were being thrown out. He very kindly told me to take whatever I wanted, so then I was free to dive down into the stack and have a real look.

If these books had been in Australia, and I didn't have to fly them home, I would probably have grabbed most of them.  Even though I have to watch the weight of my luggage, there were three or four books there that I've been looking for and decided to take.  And so now I have reading material for my trip.

I arrived in Scotland late last night - in quite heavy snow and bad weather. Much of Europe is under snow with many airports closed so we were lucky to still have a flight from Munich. Even driving from Edinburgh to Glasgow last night was very slow going.  There was a lot of ice on the road, lots of tailbacks, slow moving traffic and many people we felt sorry for stuck in jams behind jack-knifed semis. And there were several of these. Almost midnight on a cold and wet night you just want to get home, not sitting in a car behind other cars for hours at a time.

I don't know whether it's psychological, or some kind of weird collective unconsciousness, but I always feel at home here. I was born in Scotland and I emigrated to Australia as a young child, so coming to Scotland is a homecoming of sorts. I feel something heartwarming as soon as I land.

Today I wandered around town in the snow, just breathing in the atmosphere and soaking up the country. And the haggis, neeps and tatties and beer at lunch was amazing.

If you've never tried haggis, then you don't know what you're missing out on. Yum.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When I Was Up In Italy.

I'm currently in Garmisch PartenKirchen, Germany, somewhere near the Austrian border with limited internet access and limited ability to upload pictures. It's been snowing gently since before I arrived and the place looks and feels absolutely amazing. In some ways it's quite difficult to get my head around the fact that I'm here in Europe. So far everyone we've met has been incredibly friendly and helpful and everywhere we've visited has been incredibly picturesque.

Yesterday we went to Oberammergauer, and every single photo I took looks like a postcard - and I took lots, believe me.

But Italy is where we flew into. We arrived in Rome and headed straight up to Lucca. Even the train trip was amazing. And then Lucca surpassed all expectations.  What a beautiful city.

And don't even mention the food.  We found two fantastic restaurants where the food was incredible - perhaps the best meal I have ever eaten.  Stunning in simplicity, but flavours like you wouldn't believe. Our hotel was down a small laneway, and directly opposite to the birthplace of Puccini. The place has so much history and culture to offer.  Unfortunately I only was able to spend two days there.

Anyway, I'm running out of time on this beast of a machine and need to get moving. But I have been getting some ideas for stories.

More from Scotland, after I leave Germany.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eight Miles High.

While there are some of us who don’t even like the thought of getting on a plane for long hauls, I’m someone who really enjoys those flights. Maybe I just don’t get on planes often enough, but I take great delight in checking-in, boarding and then being seated. I know the thought of reaching my destination excites me, but so does the flight. And then I really start to relax once the announcements start. I have a relative who flies a lot on business, and I’m sure he would disagree with me.

Simply going to an airport is exciting enough. I’m always happy to go even just to drop someone off or pick someone up.  They are exciting places – the hustle and bustle, the international-ness (it’s a word now, OK?) of it all, people excited about going, excited about meeting those who have been away – just the whole atmosphere.

But to be the one who is actually getting on the flight is just awesome.

I love reading the in-flight magazine (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine should sign a deal to get that publication on flights), the choice of channels and films, the computer games, the drinks and even the food. Then there’s the rumble of the engines, the increase in force as the machine hurtles down the runway, and the wonder that something so heavy can actually fly. I spend quite a lot of time just looking at clouds and geographical features from the windows. Maybe I’m still a kid at heart but it all amazes me.

My most memorable flying experiences, in no particular order:

1.  Bumping into Ray Charles at Tokyo Airport, and chatting to him for a few minutes. (and even, stupidly, asking him for an autograph.  I did get a picture.)

2.  Having the nosecone ripped off the plane and go through an engine on ascent out of Detroit, then spending two hours in a shuddering machine as we circled dumping fuel before an emergency landing.

3.  Not the steward who spilled coffee on me as he was about to pour me a cup as the plane bumped, but the steward directly behind him who immediately positioned his jug over my shirt and asked, “Would you like milk on that, sir?”  He made me laugh.

4.  The first time I flew to the UK in 1985 (after not being back since leaving at 8 months old) and just looking out the window and being wowed with a sense of homecoming.

5.  Boarding a flight where there were six burly detectives around a handcuffed guy they were extraditing.  He obviously didn’t want to go and started yelling and headbutting the seats in front of him until they took him off for everybody’s safety.

6.  Playing with those little polarising windows as I took a lear jet across the state on my way to work security for Charles and Diana. (and yes, she spoke to me)

7.  Arriving home in Australia after living in Japan for six years.  Sure, I’d been back a couple of times for a week here and there, but this was coming home and the flight was fantastic.

And so this afternoon I’ll be boarding a flight and heading off into the wild grey yonder.  You’ll tell me that I’ll be spending 24 hours in a small armchair, with little legroom, average meals films I normally wouldn't want to watch, And I’d respond just as Maxwell Smart would.  

“…and loving it”

See you from the other side of the world.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It Was A Splendid Summer Morning...

So summertime is here, and school is seriously winding down.  For those in the northern hemisphere, this is the end of the academic year down under, and we're about to head into our long break.

We've just started our summer program - eight days of non-academic activities for the kids.  They go and see a film, some rock climbing, rollerblading and so on.  And for those that don't wish to spend money we have in school activities like quizzes and crafts.

When I was a kid we loved the summer program.  Even just watching a film was great. The school would rent a movie projector and we'd watch real film - even if it was some piece of crap like No Blade Of Grass, we loved it because it was real film. Video didn't exist in those days, and movies were a treat.  So attendance at summer program in those days was extremely high.

These days it's extremely low. Many of the kids have stopped coming anyway because the reports are written and 'it doesn't matter anymore', (the words of the kids and their parents, not ours) and the program just doesn't excite them.  It's hard to compete with their WIIs, DVDs, PCs and whatever else they choose to do at home.

So yesterday, when we went rollerblading, there were very few kids there.  But the ones that went had a wonderful time, and then afterwards, myself and another teacher cooked a barbecue lunch for them. We were then meant to go to a park and kick back for a while, but since it was raining heavily (check out the pic and yes, this is the beginning of our summer!) we had to quickly find an alternate activity.

Only a couple more days and I'll be off to Europe.  My bags are packed, my housesitters are briefed, my in-laws are excited, the plans are made and I'm more than ready for a break. Hopefully I'll be able to get near a PC next week to keep these posts going.

See you in Italy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This Is It Folks . . . Over The Top.

Imagine you're standing about a metre directly in front of Doc Neeson and listening to the reunited Angels. Does life get any better?

I first saw them about a year ago, despite having been a huge fan since the late 70s, but this time they sounded even better.  The set list was fantastic and Doc looked a heck of a lot healthier and more animated than then.  Doc was in a bad car accident a few years ago, and obviously has health issues, but on Thursday night he gave it all and rocked us all.

There were two support acts - the first was a bunch of local lads that had lots of energy but weren't particularly original.  I can see that they might go somewhere in the future with a couple of changes to their line-up.  The other support band, from Sydney, was Stone Parade - which sounds like it should have been a Doors song. They had some great moments, and I think elsewhere I might have enjoyed them. Unfortunately one of the guitarists had his amp turned up way too loud, and being in the front row that was all I could hear. Whenever he played any chords all I could hear was a chainsaw sound that just distorted dreadfully. My ears rang the next day or two - not from The Angels, but from these guys.

A shame, really. I wanted to like them a lot more, but they were just unlistenable due to Captain Volume's extreme loudness.

Overall, an amazing evening.  The Angels ruled, the beer was good and the friends I was with were great.  Shame about the support acts, and the drunken idiots who decided that pushing people and spilling drinks on them is acceptable behaviour at a gig.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You May Leave School, But It Never Leaves You...

Report writing is the one aspect of teaching I don't really enjoy. And, of course, they seem to roll around just as the last ones were done. Ours were due today. I completed them on time and dropped in at work last night to upload them.  In fact, I was on the way home from the doctor's when I did.

Yeah, I got hit by some dreaded lurgy that's making me feel like crap at the moment. But like any other show, the reports must go on. And there are enough problems with the print run without incomplete reports adding to it. I don't wish to be the one that throws the whole printing process out because I was late.

It's kind of weird, writing reports for kids. Especially since I have such 'fond' memories of receiving my own - ironically, from the same school I currently teach at. I always try to throw in a couple of positives and some recommendations. And I try to be totally fair and accurate in my reporting. The first time I wrote reports was nerve-wracking. I must have checked and re-checked them about thirty times. Then I uploaded them and worried myself for days as to whether I was being fair to the kids I taught.  And then once they were mailed out I was worried sick waiting for the phone calls.

They never came.

These days I still check them a couple of times, mostly for spelling and grammar. There's nothing worse than someone picking up a typo from an English teacher. But that stuff still slips through sometimes. Fortunately they usually get noticed by other teachers during the proof reading process.

And if I were to write a report for myself and my writing efforts?

Hmmm. Must write more often, needs to make the time. Write daily, even if it's only a few paragraphs. Be more adventurous, take risks with your writing and keep reading.  Reading a wide range of books will assist in a fluid and sophisticated writing style.

Or at least it can't hurt.

Anyway, I'm off back to bed to try and recover in time for school tomorrow.  Good night.