School Daze

I have been contacted by a couple of people from school in the past few days.  They weren’t looking for me, but hoping to make contact with others who we shared time with some decades ago now.  I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on childhood and the wonder years in this blog and I think that may well be a symptom of midlife episodes.

I do remember both these people but I cannot remember ever having spoken to them.  One is a girl and I was as shy a school boy as anyone would ever come across so it’s not surprising we never had a conversation during school days – apart from being shy I wasn’t a “jock” and being bookish I tended to shrink a bit into the background, which was probably exacerbated by the fact that some of my mates alwyas did well with the girls, if you know what I mean.

So for these two people I think I was basically one of those forgettable people, someone whose name you may remember, but whose face was never one that was going to leave a lasting memory, or be easy to recall when the name was mentioned.

There are some things I remember from Burwood High School that seem seared into my brain and will be there forever.  But there are far many more things that seem shrouded in fog and have continued to fade, not unlike the photograph here of the front gate of the school.   The contrast is going, fading to grey, the corridors and class rooms hinted at behind the walls of the building have also remained for the most part hidden from the view of my memories.   The six years spent wandering the quadrangles and learning the things that still echo in the man writing here today, are lost somewhere and may never be recovered. 

I could make things up about those days.   Talk about the clarity and the teachers who changed my life, or the lifetime mates who I still see.  But the truth is that whilst some teachers made a mark, there was no Mr Chips or John Keating in my life.  Not their fault either.

When I look back I realise that I was an observer rather than a participator and I regret that, as I regret that even in the observation I failed to record the things that mattered.  If I had, I may now be able to recall those days with greater clarity.  There’s a photo of me here in the Junior Boys Basketball team and I feel I made that team by default too.  I could jump, but not dribble, I later learnt to shoot, but back then, I tended to be one of the kids who was last to be chosen in any team or group activity, so whilst I did represent the school I didn’t get a lot of minutes.  As with the rest of my school life, the other members were far more outgoing and talented than I.  

Did I have self esteem issues?   No, that came much later on.  I wasn’t aware of anything different at the time.  I was who I was and not capable of being anything else.  I froze in social situations and because it made me uncomfortable I tended to use excuses not to go to parties.  At school I hung around with a group, but was one of the less inspiring, tending to listen rather than participate.  I don’t even know now if any of them actually liked me.  Maybe I was just tolerated, no threat, so no reason to be ostracised, no dill, so no reason to laugh at me, no opinions or personality, so no reason to be remembered, a bit of a misfit who didn’t know he was one at the time.

Sometimes, when I’m alone and thinking of the past little bits of those times come back to me.  It’s like peering through a window with a blind fluttering in the wind, sometimes revealing the outside world, other thimes threatening to, but rapidly closing it off again.   So I will try and reach back to understand why I am who I am, because the one thing I can say is the boy from that school carried baggage with him into manhood.

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School Daze

I have been contacted by a couple of people from school in the past few days.  They weren’t looking for me, but hoping to make contact with others who we shared time with some decades ago now.  I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on childhood and the wonder years in this blog and I think that may well be a symptom of midlife episodes.

I do remember both these people but I cannot remember ever having spoken to them.  One is a girl and I was as shy a school boy as anyone would ever come across so it’s not surprising we never had a conversation during school days – apart from being shy I wasn’t a “jock” and being bookish I tended to shrink a bit into the background, which was probably exacerbated by the fact that some of my mates alwyas did well with the girls, if you know what I mean.

So for these two people I think I was basically one of those forgettable people, someone whose name you may remember, but whose face was never one that was going to leave a lasting memory, or be easy to recall when the name was mentioned.

There are some things I remember from Burwood High School that seem seared into my brain and will be there forever.  But there are far many more things that seem shrouded in fog and have continued to fade, not unlike the photograph here of the front gate of the school.   The contrast is going, fading to grey, the corridors and class rooms hinted at behind the walls of the building have also remained for the most part hidden from the view of my memories.   The six years spent wandering the quadrangles and learning the things that still echo in the man writing here today, are lost somewhere and may never be recovered. 

I could make things up about those days.   Talk about the clarity and the teachers who changed my life, or the lifetime mates who I still see.  But the truth is that whilst some teachers made a mark, there was no Mr Chips or John Keating in my life.  Not their fault either.

When I look back I realise that I was an observer rather than a participator and I regret that, as I regret that even in the observation I failed to record the things that mattered.  If I had, I may now be able to recall those days with greater clarity.  There’s a photo of me here in the Junior Boys Basketball team and I feel I made that team by default too.  I could jump, but not dribble, I later learnt to shoot, but back then, I tended to be one of the kids who was last to be chosen in any team or group activity, so whilst I did represent the school I didn’t get a lot of minutes.  As with the rest of my school life, the other members were far more outgoing and talented than I.  

Did I have self esteem issues?   No, that came much later on.  I wasn’t aware of anything different at the time.  I was who I was and not capable of being anything else.  I froze in social situations and because it made me uncomfortable I tended to use excuses not to go to parties.  At school I hung around with a group, but was one of the less inspiring, tending to listen rather than participate.  I don’t even know now if any of them actually liked me.  Maybe I was just tolerated, no threat, so no reason to be ostracised, no dill, so no reason to laugh at me, no opinions or personality, so no reason to be remembered, a bit of a misfit who didn’t know he was one at the time.

Sometimes, when I’m alone and thinking of the past little bits of those times come back to me.  It’s like peering through a window with a blind fluttering in the wind, sometimes revealing the outside world, other thimes threatening to, but rapidly closing it off again.   So I will try and reach back to understand why I am who I am, because the one thing I can say is the boy from that school carried baggage with him into manhood.

Valediction


It was daughter number one’s valedictory dinner last night and she was one of 145 kids graduating from her High School. Some of them I have known since kindergarten and it amazes me how quickly they grow up. I spent three weeks with most of them on a trip to Central Australia in 2005 and had a terrific time with a great bunch of kids.

Sitting there watching them all last night I was reminded again of my own school years and thought about the sense of excitement on that journey into adulthood that was about to begin. Today, many of them will vote in our Federal Election for the first time, most have already gotten their driver’s licences during the year and it is now legal for them to drink.

I suspect that most don’t consider that last night is probably the last time many of them will see each other. There will of course be those who will be lifelong friends, some may well become friends in the next months and years, some will marry, others will head off overseas. There will be success stories and probably some sad failures, there will even likely be some who will not be around at all in the next ten years let alone reach middle or old age.

I remember son number 2’s Grade 6 graduation and a young kid who stood grinning at the door of the reception center handing out programs and ushering people to seats. Within a month he had suffocated when a sand cave collapsed on him while playing at a beach on his family holiday. But that day of the graduation he was happy and full of life, with dreams and ambitions, and good friends who would share that time with him. No different to any of the kids I saw last night.

So for the graduating class there are no fears, nor beliefs that the salad days will ever end. Sure they’ve had the weight of a tough year lifted with the end of exams and they are all looking forward to what the future brings and there will dounbtless be days of disappointment ahead for some. I trust for most though that life will unfold in ways that suit them. And who can really ask for any more.

*******************************************************************
I won’t be around for the next week. I’m off to Tasmania tomorrow morning and will be doing a bit of bushwalking at Cradle Mountain for the next few days, before heading down to the south of the Island where I’ll be visiting some of the places that my great-great-Grandparents, four of whom were Irish convicts, were assigned to work out their sentences. Stay well my friends and I’ll be back in a weeks time.

Valediction


It was daughter number one’s valedictory dinner last night and she was one of 145 kids graduating from her High School. Some of them I have known since kindergarten and it amazes me how quickly they grow up. I spent three weeks with most of them on a trip to Central Australia in 2005 and had a terrific time with a great bunch of kids.

Sitting there watching them all last night I was reminded again of my own school years and thought about the sense of excitement on that journey into adulthood that was about to begin. Today, many of them will vote in our Federal Election for the first time, most have already gotten their driver’s licences during the year and it is now legal for them to drink.

I suspect that most don’t consider that last night is probably the last time many of them will see each other. There will of course be those who will be lifelong friends, some may well become friends in the next months and years, some will marry, others will head off overseas. There will be success stories and probably some sad failures, there will even likely be some who will not be around at all in the next ten years let alone reach middle or old age.

I remember son number 2’s Grade 6 graduation and a young kid who stood grinning at the door of the reception center handing out programs and ushering people to seats. Within a month he had suffocated when a sand cave collapsed on him while playing at a beach on his family holiday. But that day of the graduation he was happy and full of life, with dreams and ambitions, and good friends who would share that time with him. No different to any of the kids I saw last night.

So for the graduating class there are no fears, nor beliefs that the salad days will ever end. Sure they’ve had the weight of a tough year lifted with the end of exams and they are all looking forward to what the future brings and there will dounbtless be days of disappointment ahead for some. I trust for most though that life will unfold in ways that suit them. And who can really ask for any more.

*******************************************************************
I won’t be around for the next week. I’m off to Tasmania tomorrow morning and will be doing a bit of bushwalking at Cradle Mountain for the next few days, before heading down to the south of the Island where I’ll be visiting some of the places that my great-great-Grandparents, four of whom were Irish convicts, were assigned to work out their sentences. Stay well my friends and I’ll be back in a weeks time.

Valediction


It was daughter number one’s valedictory dinner last night and she was one of 145 kids graduating from her High School. Some of them I have known since kindergarten and it amazes me how quickly they grow up. I spent three weeks with most of them on a trip to Central Australia in 2005 and had a terrific time with a great bunch of kids.

Sitting there watching them all last night I was reminded again of my own school years and thought about the sense of excitement on that journey into adulthood that was about to begin. Today, many of them will vote in our Federal Election for the first time, most have already gotten their driver’s licences during the year and it is now legal for them to drink.

I suspect that most don’t consider that last night is probably the last time many of them will see each other. There will of course be those who will be lifelong friends, some may well become friends in the next months and years, some will marry, others will head off overseas. There will be success stories and probably some sad failures, there will even likely be some who will not be around at all in the next ten years let alone reach middle or old age.

I remember son number 2’s Grade 6 graduation and a young kid who stood grinning at the door of the reception center handing out programs and ushering people to seats. Within a month he had suffocated when a sand cave collapsed on him while playing at a beach on his family holiday. But that day of the graduation he was happy and full of life, with dreams and ambitions, and good friends who would share that time with him. No different to any of the kids I saw last night.

So for the graduating class there are no fears, nor beliefs that the salad days will ever end. Sure they’ve had the weight of a tough year lifted with the end of exams and they are all looking forward to what the future brings and there will dounbtless be days of disappointment ahead for some. I trust for most though that life will unfold in ways that suit them. And who can really ask for any more.

*******************************************************************
I won’t be around for the next week. I’m off to Tasmania tomorrow morning and will be doing a bit of bushwalking at Cradle Mountain for the next few days, before heading down to the south of the Island where I’ll be visiting some of the places that my great-great-Grandparents, four of whom were Irish convicts, were assigned to work out their sentences. Stay well my friends and I’ll be back in a weeks time.

Of Fog


My friend walksfarwoman at Kissing the Dogwood has written a wonderful post about a person from her past and in the comments mentions that the memory came flooding back when she saw an advert for a forthcoming program. It’s often the way that memories do come seemingly unprompted and reading that post triggered some for me too.

My mate Fog lived around the corner from me in Box Hill South on the Golf Club Estate. We went to different Primary schools but the same high school and in the early teen years I would call us acquaintances rather than mates. I don’t know when that changed but at some stage we began to circulate in the same circle of friends and started to socialize outside school.

Fog was a corruption of his name – Geoff spelt backwards, which although was actually FFeog got shortened very quickly to just Fog. And he was anything but foggy, he was one of the brightest persons I have ever met, with a keen wit but an underlying ageness about him that in retrospect made him way older than his years.

Fog introduced me to music. His bedroom had the best stereo system I had ever heard to that stage and we spent many a day sitting in arm chairs listening to the Eagles, Genesis and Yes to name a few. I well remember the excitement of listening to Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and later Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. There were days listening to Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Focus, ELO and Supertramp.

Every Sunday night Fog would turn up at my place after dinner and we’d sit and watch a Sunday night movie on the telly. This would happen without fail and continued really until I got tied up with a girlfriend who was to become my wife.

Fog had terrible eyesight and a bad back. I wrote about my first bushwalk here, where his back became an issue for us, but far more of a long term issue for him. [That’s him leaning on the car door in the photo above.] I remember talking about the future at times with him and he stated very early on that he would not have children because he didn’t want to pass on his bad genes to the future of humanity. Can you imagine making that sort of decision in your late teens, it staggered me at the time but it was easy to write it off because that was just Fog. He could say those sorts of things, mean them and you knew that it was likely that he would follow through on it.

At some stage in High School he took to wearing a grey dustcoat and a peaked “CAT” hat. In those days baseball type caps weren’t common in Australia but Fog wore his everywhere.

We went to different universities but unlike some of our other mates we continued to live at home. Still it was around that time that we started to drift a little apart I think. We were moving in different circles of friends, he was making firmer friends amongst his uni mates than I was and I was in a relationship with my future wife and as sometimes happens, the mateships can often begin to take a backseat to love.

Fog went to Nepal when in his early twenties and I remember he came back around 3 stone lighter than when he left after a bad bout of dysentery. I remember him proudly telling me that he had buried his old dust coat in a glacier at Everest Base Camp – not something anyone would probably admit to in these more enlightened days.

Fog was a groomsman at my wedding in 1982 and when my first son was born in 1984 and the burdens and excitement of fatherhood began to encroach on my free time, Fog and I drifted apart. We didn’t see a lot of each other over the next few years. Fog continued to work at the same institution at which he studied and moved into a house around the corner from work. He began to drink heavily and his bad back meant that he did little exercise and as a result his weight ballooned. He called the front bar of his local pub his loungeroom.

In 1997 I was at work one day and got a call from another mate who told me that Fog had been found dead in his house, having had a stroke and dying alone on the cold tiles of his bathroom floor. He was 39 and I still miss those early days. When I hear Supertramp or Genesis these days those good times come flooding back.

Of Fog


My friend walksfarwoman at Kissing the Dogwood has written a wonderful post about a person from her past and in the comments mentions that the memory came flooding back when she saw an advert for a forthcoming program. It’s often the way that memories do come seemingly unprompted and reading that post triggered some for me too.

My mate Fog lived around the corner from me in Box Hill South on the Golf Club Estate. We went to different Primary schools but the same high school and in the early teen years I would call us acquaintances rather than mates. I don’t know when that changed but at some stage we began to circulate in the same circle of friends and started to socialize outside school.

Fog was a corruption of his name – Geoff spelt backwards, which although was actually FFeog got shortened very quickly to just Fog. And he was anything but foggy, he was one of the brightest persons I have ever met, with a keen wit but an underlying ageness about him that in retrospect made him way older than his years.

Fog introduced me to music. His bedroom had the best stereo system I had ever heard to that stage and we spent many a day sitting in arm chairs listening to the Eagles, Genesis and Yes to name a few. I well remember the excitement of listening to Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and later Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. There were days listening to Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Focus, ELO and Supertramp.

Every Sunday night Fog would turn up at my place after dinner and we’d sit and watch a Sunday night movie on the telly. This would happen without fail and continued really until I got tied up with a girlfriend who was to become my wife.

Fog had terrible eyesight and a bad back. I wrote about my first bushwalk here, where his back became an issue for us, but far more of a long term issue for him. [That’s him leaning on the car door in the photo above.] I remember talking about the future at times with him and he stated very early on that he would not have children because he didn’t want to pass on his bad genes to the future of humanity. Can you imagine making that sort of decision in your late teens, it staggered me at the time but it was easy to write it off because that was just Fog. He could say those sorts of things, mean them and you knew that it was likely that he would follow through on it.

At some stage in High School he took to wearing a grey dustcoat and a peaked “CAT” hat. In those days baseball type caps weren’t common in Australia but Fog wore his everywhere.

We went to different universities but unlike some of our other mates we continued to live at home. Still it was around that time that we started to drift a little apart I think. We were moving in different circles of friends, he was making firmer friends amongst his uni mates than I was and I was in a relationship with my future wife and as sometimes happens, the mateships can often begin to take a backseat to love.

Fog went to Nepal when in his early twenties and I remember he came back around 3 stone lighter than when he left after a bad bout of dysentery. I remember him proudly telling me that he had buried his old dust coat in a glacier at Everest Base Camp – not something anyone would probably admit to in these more enlightened days.

Fog was a groomsman at my wedding in 1982 and when my first son was born in 1984 and the burdens and excitement of fatherhood began to encroach on my free time, Fog and I drifted apart. We didn’t see a lot of each other over the next few years. Fog continued to work at the same institution at which he studied and moved into a house around the corner from work. He began to drink heavily and his bad back meant that he did little exercise and as a result his weight ballooned. He called the front bar of his local pub his loungeroom.

In 1997 I was at work one day and got a call from another mate who told me that Fog had been found dead in his house, having had a stroke and dying alone on the cold tiles of his bathroom floor. He was 39 and I still miss those early days. When I hear Supertramp or Genesis these days those good times come flooding back.

Of Fog


My friend walksfarwoman at Kissing the Dogwood has written a wonderful post about a person from her past and in the comments mentions that the memory came flooding back when she saw an advert for a forthcoming program. It’s often the way that memories do come seemingly unprompted and reading that post triggered some for me too.

My mate Fog lived around the corner from me in Box Hill South on the Golf Club Estate. We went to different Primary schools but the same high school and in the early teen years I would call us acquaintances rather than mates. I don’t know when that changed but at some stage we began to circulate in the same circle of friends and started to socialize outside school.

Fog was a corruption of his name – Geoff spelt backwards, which although was actually FFeog got shortened very quickly to just Fog. And he was anything but foggy, he was one of the brightest persons I have ever met, with a keen wit but an underlying ageness about him that in retrospect made him way older than his years.

Fog introduced me to music. His bedroom had the best stereo system I had ever heard to that stage and we spent many a day sitting in arm chairs listening to the Eagles, Genesis and Yes to name a few. I well remember the excitement of listening to Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and later Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. There were days listening to Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Focus, ELO and Supertramp.

Every Sunday night Fog would turn up at my place after dinner and we’d sit and watch a Sunday night movie on the telly. This would happen without fail and continued really until I got tied up with a girlfriend who was to become my wife.

Fog had terrible eyesight and a bad back. I wrote about my first bushwalk here, where his back became an issue for us, but far more of a long term issue for him. [That’s him leaning on the car door in the photo above.] I remember talking about the future at times with him and he stated very early on that he would not have children because he didn’t want to pass on his bad genes to the future of humanity. Can you imagine making that sort of decision in your late teens, it staggered me at the time but it was easy to write it off because that was just Fog. He could say those sorts of things, mean them and you knew that it was likely that he would follow through on it.

At some stage in High School he took to wearing a grey dustcoat and a peaked “CAT” hat. In those days baseball type caps weren’t common in Australia but Fog wore his everywhere.

We went to different universities but unlike some of our other mates we continued to live at home. Still it was around that time that we started to drift a little apart I think. We were moving in different circles of friends, he was making firmer friends amongst his uni mates than I was and I was in a relationship with my future wife and as sometimes happens, the mateships can often begin to take a backseat to love.

Fog went to Nepal when in his early twenties and I remember he came back around 3 stone lighter than when he left after a bad bout of dysentery. I remember him proudly telling me that he had buried his old dust coat in a glacier at Everest Base Camp – not something anyone would probably admit to in these more enlightened days.

Fog was a groomsman at my wedding in 1982 and when my first son was born in 1984 and the burdens and excitement of fatherhood began to encroach on my free time, Fog and I drifted apart. We didn’t see a lot of each other over the next few years. Fog continued to work at the same institution at which he studied and moved into a house around the corner from work. He began to drink heavily and his bad back meant that he did little exercise and as a result his weight ballooned. He called the front bar of his local pub his loungeroom.

In 1997 I was at work one day and got a call from another mate who told me that Fog had been found dead in his house, having had a stroke and dying alone on the cold tiles of his bathroom floor. He was 39 and I still miss those early days. When I hear Supertramp or Genesis these days those good times come flooding back.

Not popular – Just the Watcher

I was a little flattered by a couple of the comments relating to the photo of me as a 17 year old in the Sun Days post. Actually I was very flattered because even with the David Cassidy haircut I wasn’t the most popular guy in the school. In fact throughout my entire school life I had one girl friend for a period of a couple of months in Fourth Form – Year 10 in today’s language.

I was actually extremely shy and had a lot of trouble even talking to girls – in fact I was one of those blokes who hung around in the background and if we were ever seen in a mixed group of boys and girls it was because the girls were usually the girlfriends of my mates not mine. There was only ever one girl who showed any interest in me and I was terrified when I was told out it. What should I do? How should I react? If I opened my mouth would she run a mile?

Thinking back on it that shyness was a huge social liability. I was scared to go to parties and when I did I tended to stand in the corner as an observer rather than as a participator. Some of you who have been following my blogs for a while will know that my Dad was an alcoholic and as a result of that I remember promising my grandmother at a very young age that I would never drink, a promise that has held true to this day. That meant that in social situations I never got to the stage where my inhibitions and hangups were ever forgotten.

From a very early age I kept a tight control on emotion and whilst my mates were doing the things that teenage boys generally did I became the Watcher. I struggled to read out loud in class when asked, and didn’t put my hand up to answer any questions unless I was absolutely sure I was right and even then it terrified the life out of me. This fear of public ridicule manifested itself in a shyness so that I think I appeared more the shadow of a school kid than one the girls would look at and think I might have been worth getting to know. I wrote a post about my first kiss a few months ago and again looking back the fears associated with that never really went away.

So to the two ladies who commented on the photo, that young man from 1974 thanks you, it was a nice and unexpected ego boost. If only I knew then what I know now maybe the watchers alarm clock may have gone off a little earlier.

Not popular – Just the Watcher

I was a little flattered by a couple of the comments relating to the photo of me as a 17 year old in the Sun Days post. Actually I was very flattered because even with the David Cassidy haircut I wasn’t the most popular guy in the school. In fact throughout my entire school life I had one girl friend for a period of a couple of months in Fourth Form – Year 10 in today’s language.

I was actually extremely shy and had a lot of trouble even talking to girls – in fact I was one of those blokes who hung around in the background and if we were ever seen in a mixed group of boys and girls it was because the girls were usually the girlfriends of my mates not mine. There was only ever one girl who showed any interest in me and I was terrified when I was told out it. What should I do? How should I react? If I opened my mouth would she run a mile?

Thinking back on it that shyness was a huge social liability. I was scared to go to parties and when I did I tended to stand in the corner as an observer rather than as a participator. Some of you who have been following my blogs for a while will know that my Dad was an alcoholic and as a result of that I remember promising my grandmother at a very young age that I would never drink, a promise that has held true to this day. That meant that in social situations I never got to the stage where my inhibitions and hangups were ever forgotten.

From a very early age I kept a tight control on emotion and whilst my mates were doing the things that teenage boys generally did I became the Watcher. I struggled to read out loud in class when asked, and didn’t put my hand up to answer any questions unless I was absolutely sure I was right and even then it terrified the life out of me. This fear of public ridicule manifested itself in a shyness so that I think I appeared more the shadow of a school kid than one the girls would look at and think I might have been worth getting to know. I wrote a post about my first kiss a few months ago and again looking back the fears associated with that never really went away.

So to the two ladies who commented on the photo, that young man from 1974 thanks you, it was a nice and unexpected ego boost. If only I knew then what I know now maybe the watchers alarm clock may have gone off a little earlier.