One More Unsavoury Crew

Sporting Hero

He’s a sporting hero is Travistock Hones

Lives in glass houses and doesn’t throw stones

He owns a yacht that is quite a boat

It’s worth so much more than a ribboned coat

He drives a Mercedes and shows it off well

As he glories in the comfort of his sports cartel

He’s regarded by the market as free of sinning

The one criterion is to keep on winning

That’s the secret of life in this age of consent

If you win at all costs you’re from heaven sent

If you don’t win at first you’re regarded as slack

If you keep on losing you get the sack

Gone are the old ways of splendid idealism

Instead we have war and belligerent realism

With your new career you dream to begin it

Until you discover there’s money in it

Then your life changes to conform with new ways

Affluence is the influence for the rest of your days

So that is the tale that Travistock weaves

It’s the ultimate truth and what he believes

Hard cash and rash language are an enormity

Life’s to be governed by servile conformity

Behind this existence is media profit

The hero becomes a big business prophet

People buy while the days go by

As the crowds flow in they will certify

That enterprise is paying off

And only the poets are left to scoff


Climate Skeptic

Australia’s NDC outlines an economy wide emissions reduction target of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030.  Parliament of Australia

How many roads must that fool travel down

Before he learns to be wise?

How man years can a man be a clown

Till he stops polluting the skies?

The answer my friend is blowing in the breeze

And climate denial’s a disease

Just look at fire to quell your desire

To let the world stay the same

Will the planet transpire wrapped in the pyre

Or are you moved by the shame?

And what of the drought how can you leave out

Economic ruin of a nation?

Where is the wise voice talking about

The truth of this deadly privation?

And then there is flood with its torrent of mud

Destroying the beauty of life

Is the story of living to be written in blood

With the norm for existence strife?

Questions such as these can influence fate

As so much rests on reply

Suggestions you give can change the debate

Or we kiss our planet goodbye

Just one more thought might come to your mind

Before you answer each query

Time’s running out for our people to find

Respect for scientific theory

Yes the lesson is stark so recall Noah’s ark

Before we sink in the gloom

See the voice of reason as a light in the dark

Or would you prefer a tomb?


Photo Opportunity

I notice how you organise photo opportunity

News bulletins show your impunity

With each session you give the impression

That you are an everywhere man

Posing as a hero who never lacks a fan

Shaking hands or watching a game

Wearing a hard hat or lighting a flame

Cheering up old folks or chatting with a child

Walking with dignitaries driving crowds wild

Posing as a key man thrice blessed with friends

Acting as a film star whose fame never ends

So it is with political intrigue

You turn the world into an sheer blitzkrieg

And what is the purpose of your singularity?

Why to focus on the polls and enhance popularity

So that is why you do it

There is no other way to construe it

Your basic inception is pure deception

As you show a devious persona

You cunningly chart the desired reception

That denies you are a loner

So there we have it detail of your habit

That discloses what you are

The world can see why you grab it

You’ll be visible near and far

But your future is still prone to blunders

For what you are echoes and thunders

So beware of the thought that troubles are fought

By means of natural selection

As in the end success can’t be wrought

Except by the next election

The historian’s pen will all things mend

As truth and nothing but truth will win in the end


Benjamin Rubble: Developer

Benjamin Rubble never has trouble

Knocking famed buildings down

Life to him is but froth and bubble

As he acts the destructive clown

His influence is strong doing things wrong

And he’s paid for his devious work

He lobbies to members who all go along

With each very gainful quirk

So down comes beauty as forsaken duty

To make way for intrusive towers

The city becomes a part of Ben’s booty

A victim of his potent powers

Gone are those days when we lived to praise

The legacy of bygone times

Our children will have no sense of the days

Before these virtual crimes

It is hard to describe the new stark vision

Without complete verbosity

The mind leans heavily towards derision

As we notice each monstrosity

So the sun looks down on an unplanned scatter

Of high-rise bleak intrusions

The planners seem to ignore this matter

While critics are accused of delusions

Above all else time stands aloof

In judgement of this behaviour

The victims soon will long for proof

That Ben will be thwarted by a saviour

If it be not so it will stay sheer woe

While destruction routinely proceeds

In the end with a tear we will see so much go

As everyone’s broken heart bleeds


Weapon Maker

There is one calling that deals with death

More than the undertaker

If you listen hard and don’t hold your breath

I’ll name the weapon maker

Murder is a crime we all understand

Is punishable by law

Unless it is done with a military band

Legally killing far more

When a weapon is made it is on parade

On hand for any buyer

It can be bought with excuses made

By any skilful liar

In the name of peace he will add the grease

To tanks and bayonets and guns

Then comes the killing as the battle won’t cease

Bringing death to fathers and sons

You cannot be sure when it comes to war

How justly your weapon will be used

Integrity is kept outside every door

Wherever peace is abused

So death will come walking by your side

Whenever the mission is harm

It will flow in an ever increasing tide

Ringing the bells of alarm

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

Innocents will die in numbers

If mankind fails to heed the warning

That the god of war never slumbers

So every time you make a gun

You run the risk of disaster

You create the chance to be overrun

And the Angel of Death will be master




Hail Caesar Tin-pot Leader

Now Tin-pot Caesar

Was a smart geyser

Destined to rule the land

His methods were naughty

While he was so haughty

And decidedly underhand

One of his tools

Was the Roman schools

Where teachers taught loyalty to him

If they didn’t follow

What told to swallow

Their prospects would be simply dim

Another misdeed 

All linked to his greed

Was to make the country great

But his lies hit the roof

He was so aloof

That the land met a far worse fate

For the people starved

Their income halved

And many were horribly sick

Then the climate turned worse

It became a vile curse

So Tin-pot tried a new trick

It had nothing to do with the weather

This will knock you down with a feather

The mighty boss said we’ll be right by the fall

Then to cure all the sadness

In a blind fit of madness

The fool built a useless wall


Flawed Affection

Look at you

In your position of power

Over the fate of others

Part of university life

Absolute mastery

Exploiting completely


A vulnerable young woman

Wrapped in your program of study

How witty you are

You with your knowledge

First base to me 

A stepping stone to a social contract

With me

One thing leads to another

A different allegiance 

How lucky I am

To be so close to you

You and I are we

For all the world to see

You with me

That is a way of putting it

A periphrastic study

Of reality

See how you organise me

Control is a role

I cannot deny

You with me are one

Time clarifies things

Influence mastery domination

A way to my salvation

Not so

The truth is pain

Again and again and again

Annulment: without hesitation



Jeremiah Jones was a principal

Head of a famous old school

He strove to be close to invincible

Obedience was his rule

Every prefect 

Was alert for a defect

That damaged the school’s reputation

And each teacher

Was an orderly creature

Moral by imputation

Now life is strange

It can rearrange

And get up to tricks unexpected

So it came to pass

In a lower class

That a felony was detected

This event was a reason for change

In the way the school was run

Giving learning a more valid range

As a new era was begun

It was Teddy Tomkins of the junior school

Son of a chemist with status

Teddy did a deed that broke every rule

And caused a significant hiatus

The story ran thus with a great deal of fuss

Concerning the boy’s lawless tactics

He was doing deals with his classmates thus

Selling them prophylactics

When the word got around

That business was sound

It threw the staff into a panic

That ship they sailed had indeed run aground

It may well have been the Titanic

Now the boy was drawn from out of the ranks

In a way that couldn’t be faster

The words that were used were censored blanks

From the highly irate headmaster

Now Tomkins was au fait with the world

And coped well with the abuse

He stood quite tall when the slander was hurled

And dreamed up a clever excuse

Balloons he claimed was all they were

Balloons to check the weather

I’m doing research on the climate Sir

Science teachers and me together

Now Jones as the boss was not at a loss

Despite the convolution

That thought from the boy was coming across

As a highly useful solution

Good idea he said go into the lab

And fill them all up with helium

This will solve with a single grab

The present distasteful tedium

So the deed was done and measurements begun

To check the current weather

The condoms were filled up one by one

Until they were light as a feather

Then out through the window they were cast away

As a plan to protect the school’s name

It still has a very fine standing today

While Teddy’s in their Hall of Fame

Sex education is now programmed

With seminars every week

The boys have peace where once they were damned

What more could they seek?

But up in the sky when the sun is high

You might gain a new perspective

You may see an eagle daring to fly

Outdone by a contraceptive


Counterfeit Freedom

Give me liberty or give me death

I’ll defy lockdowns with my very last breath

I know my rights if you take me to task

I’ll fight for impunity without a mask

How dare you put a fine on me for meeting with my friends

You’ll get from me resistance from now that never ends

To hell with all your orders demanding a safe distance

My will power is quite strong enough to counter your insistence

Freedom is a church that needs a towering steeple

You should know it’s a human excuse to infect other people

I’ve spent so many days creating self rule

If you rob me of it you are but a fool

My vital cause is noble so keep your police away

If they should lay their hands on me it is you who’ll pay

And there’s another evil that is your ghastly quirk

You have pulled the levers to take away my work

You have ruined my sport 

As a last resort and done away with the crowd

You’d dig up all the cricket pitches if that were allowed

So there you have it described at last my true picture

Of the ways you bind me up in your deadly stricture

I bid you now stay ready for more words that will inspire us

I’ll be back to say them as soon as they’ve cured my virus


The Doings Of Nicely Nicely

Nicely Nicely is an entrepreneur

Intent on making a bundle

He forces his clients with a grin to concur

Reducing life’s progress to a trundle

Slowly he preaches and then overreaches

Promising the world if you buy

He would if he could sell our harbours and beaches

Wrapped up as pie in the sky

Every day come hail or shine we are incited to pay

Extremely extravagant prices

He brings his lies right into play

While we’re left to our own devices

Now Nicely Nicely has made his pile

By applying his skills quite cunningly

He makes his approach with a glamorous smile

As he reaps the profit stunningly

But there is a secret people should know

In a case decidedly sinister

This tyro with a biro always on the go

Is the soul mate of the prime minister

Who passes laws that fill Nicely’s drawers

To match how the businessman lobbies

And so it goes with so many encores

You might see them as lucrative hobbies

If you read the press you would never guess

This is such a cause of privation

All leadership speeches state with finesse

It’s all for the good of the nation

So there we have it a profiteer’s dreams

That hat fits as Nicely’s best size

He wins with all his devious schemes

In the name of free enterprise



Rapscallions Still

Vote For Me

Now I declare

You have the chance

To get me into power

So listen well

Here is my stance

My plan at this witching hour

I’m dedicated

And very well able

To make our country great

So hurry now

And vote for the fable

Ere smart owls shut the gate

Now I am one

Of this world’s attackers

And I will fulfil your dreams

I get things done

With the help of my backers

Whatever their devious schemes

Deceit won’t matter

It avoids the mess

Of government behind the times

When you make the laws

There is no duress

And you get away with the crimes

It is easy for you

To assess my might

I rival the god Osiris

Nothing will stop me

From getting things right

I’ll even ignore the virus

I will sweep aside

The opposing crew

And drive them to the slaughter

Even though it’s true

When it comes to IQ

I am but a fish out of water

But that doesn’t matter

I am your man

As long as we’ve got the numbers

I’ll get things done

With a brilliant plan

That no truth encumbers

Yes artifice is the way 

That now I choose

Convinced I’ll avoid detection

It’s the framework of fraud

I’ll astutely use

To triumph at the next election


Love’s Reality

You postured once as my friend

Convivial you might say

We laughed together in joyous mood

In such a friendly way

All the while you hatched a plan

Playing your affectionate part

Devising your scheme that was to become

A dagger to my heart

You stole away my precious wife

My children’s loving mother

You cunningly killed my self respect

Though I treated you as a brother

How clever you were with her

A singer in your choir

You led her on to be in your grasp

A victim of your desire

You used your power

Over enslaved women

Caught up in domesticity

You gave them relief from boredom’s grief

With your shallow eccentricity

Week after week you wove your charm

In the midst of each rehearsal

Had I been there I’d have felt the alarm

That for humans is universal

Schemes and dreams how easy it is

To court a victim with novelty

You laugh things off 

And never scoff

There is purpose in your frivolity

Subtle hints of sexuality

All just innocent fun

But your dark deeds in stark reality

Give your libido a run

Cause no alarms

And sweep her away

Into your greedy arms…

Here I am now many years have gone by

I wonder did you ever know

She came back to me with many a sigh

That softened the final blow

She’s dead I must tell you now

Stolen away at too early a time

Yet still loyal to the marital vow

And I forgave her for your crime

So we parted friends forever

There still was a bond sublime

That your dismal deeds could not sever

And I have a joy left still to save me

A brave reality that will last

Three children that she gave me

So attention please in heaven above

Watch my beat as the fashion

Let us listen to the music of love

That transcends all short-lived passion



So it’s your compliance

Denying the science

The evidence is there

Of the world’s despair

But money in your pocket is all that matters

Despite people dying and lives in tatters

It’s a massacre of burning

Disaster returning 

Over and over again

And the people need to know when

Your shifty mind will master

The truth of the disaster

Just look at those flames clutching the sky

A tragic reason so many die

So don’t deny the deadly white-knuckle cause

Listen to the thunder as the wildfire roars

Yet you still keep your bargain with the Devil

And allow deadly carbon at a lethal level

You pay no heed to calamities of coal

You fund the mines as a sinister role

There is no justice in your behaviour

Global warmers see you as their saviour

So as the flames sound their next death knell

Shake hands with Vulcan, you know him well


The Has Been

O why are you still talking?

You’ve been voted out of your post

You are a delinquent stalking

And you hang around like a ghost

Now you rarely rate a mention

But you frantically seek attention

As you preach your way out views

That find a place in the news

It is shocking to note the reality

Of your herd mentality

Your words are crimes 

That too many times

Promote the acceptance of death

You blindly state

A mortality rate

That leaves me out of breath

Now you’ve found a stage

That is all the rage

You consult in a foreign land

But the bottom rung

That is your tongue

Is decidedly underhand

So heed me now and take a vow

That will save the planet earth

End the violence 

With your welcome silence

That will make amends for your birth


O’Leary Was Weary

O’Leary was weary

And had a theory that the sun

Was about to set

It was a notion linked to emotion

That caused the fool to fret

The trouble was

He needed light

To keep his cabbages flowing

Whereas in the dark

The trouble was stark

As the number of snails was growing

So he got a frog

From under a log

To startle the night with a croak

His idea was simple

Like a baby’s dimple

But it turned into quite a joke

The snails were not scared but sought romance

That seemed to enhance

The frog’s percussion tune

Then along came a bird

It was quite absurd

It feasted by the light of the moon

So the snails were gone

But later on

There was yet even more trouble

Mister O’Leary

The man who was weary

Was caught in life’s froth and bubble

Yes fate turned even more savage

Along came a rabbit

With its usual habit

And consumed every single cabbage

Now the years have passed

With O’Leary aghast

And now he plays different roles

He has given up farming

Which is quite alarming

And pays for his produce at Coles



More Miscreants

Hermes Unmasked

Kane helped to change the world, but Kane’s world now is history. 

From Orson Welles’ Film Citizen Kane

So there you rule you fool

Heir apparent to the whole world

Potentate emperor sovereign monarch

What’s in a name?

Your media deeds whatever your name would be the same

Those rags

The things that you control

Are petty strings

That you pull according to your will

They are not tools of a god

Though you wield your pen at times

As if it were Thor’s hammer 

Your tabloids are odious voices scattered around the globe 

Yes and it’s you in your dealmaker’s robe 

Who is the omniscient sleuth

Deciding on the truth they are allowed to convey

So that’s it

We have established your status

But what of the hiatus?

How far can we trust you?

You a would-be icon grasping power

You yes you

You who decides what we learn 

While the other information 

Is left to burn

Your news is no more than your approved verdict

On what we lesser souls

Deserve to know

But we the little people need not dismay

For you will be dead one day

Like all of us

And history will write your obituary 

Totally free of your editorial influence


Pillage Of The Village

There’s a green one, and a pink one And a blue one and a yellow one And they’re all made out of ticky tacky And they all look just the same  From “Little Boxes,” a song sung by Pete Seeger


You plan to cut up our parklands

Dig up the grass and make a pass

Without a moral suture

At developers who fund their own future

That’s it then

Let the wonders of time

Yield to the crime of so called progress

No no no

It must not be so

The beauty of the ages

Treasured buildings of the past

Wondrous designs all meant to last

Open fields of world renown

The very spirit of the town

Are not yours to disown

All this is a universal need

Such riches must be saved 

From the jaws of greed

There is a glory

In the story

Of timeless heritage from the past

You must not pillage our golden village

Or the world will scream aghast

So remember this

Nothing will be amiss

If you value the legacies we treasure

Avoid the pain and help us maintain

The gifts only time can measure


A Lump Of Coal

An extrovert once in a fit of malaise

Hatched a wild plan to gather some praise

So he blackened his name and damaged his soul

And he held up a lump of coal

But the fires raged and the rains came

Until frightened people cursed his name

But this life of the party stayed calm on the whole

And he held up a lump of coal

Then the drought lasted and the storms blasted

And the masses used words such as guilty bastard

Yet the lively chap still stuck to his role

And he held up a lump of coal

Next oceans rose and washed away houses

It was doom of the kind that fear arouses

While the newsmaker tried for another goal

And he held up a lump of coal

Soon guilt was forming with the fearsome storming

As the world was wracked by global warming

Yet our star felt safe if linked to a poll

And he held up a lump of coal

Now folly is a roof that leaks in the rain

Only fools keep doing what brings them disdain

But a judge asked our man what caused the death toll

And he held up a lump of coal



Smoking kills

Call the Quitline Now

Get your cigarettes here

Default urban speed limit is 50 K

Our latest model will speed you away

Alcohol can cause heart and liver disease or stroke

It’s a bargain: half price sale of LEONARDO’S beer today


I am only a simple old working chap

As any one can see

But when I see folly and refuse to clap

Life is rewarding to me

It’s the thoughtless seller named Xerxes Jones

Who rattles my brain and stirs my bones

His is the stall I say with regret

Where you can buy your cigarette

Then there’s seedy speedy Leonidas Reed

Whose ads display cars built for speed

The vision we see has a grand prix role

That does not halt the state road toll

Among this group is Phidias Droll

Who makes his money from alcohol

The display for him is friendly and charming

But the violence news is quite alarming

So there you have it form with the norm

Of what might be called pretence

The need for profit makes people conform

With deeds that have little sense

Yet things can alter and rearrange

If we simply stop and think

There are many ways we can bring on change

When we breathe and drive and drink

Here’s a toast to that with a tit for tat

And I’ll turn you away from the slaughter

I’ll not smoke or speed to live longer indeed

And I’ll drink to your health with water



Zip-a-dee-doo-dah fiddle de dee

I’m a consultant for your spending spree

You seek advice lest profit be lost

You’re ready to pay me whatever the cost

Yes I’ll advise you dear client – relax

My fees you deduct from your income tax

There is one idea that now we don’t mention

How to dupe clients if that’s your intention

Of course I will help with a priceless plan

It’s the oldest gambit known to man

First praise your product with a testimonial

Make it seem great with due ceremonial

Then you double the price and market frantically

Make it alluring with a woman romantically

Offer low interest with time to spare

Then ride easy while others pay the fare

There are more schemes you might like to know

Many subtle ways to make income flow

Tobacco is a gainful ticket upstairs

If you sprinkle your funds on its stocks and shares

But there is a warning to keep things sunny

Work where you can with other people’s money

And things will be fine if you have people sign

Their lives away on a devious mine

Yes dig it up or cut it down

That’s a sure way to gain renown

There I stop

I now predict your thanks from the banks

As you join the redoubtable magnate’s ranks

And I will be pleased to serve you well

You will be safe when under my spell

But remember this

Whatever the task I will not begin it

Unless I’m convinced there’s money in it

While if we work as a triumphant pair

You will have to ignore my bursts of hot air


Where Rapscallions Dare To Tread

The Chosen One

On hearing a speech in August 2020

Your prompting script will be enough

None will dare to call your bluff

So decorate your image with pretence

Disguise each lie your sordid mind invents

No half measures as you misinform

And make deception now the ugly norm

Then praise all innocents as if you cared

Mollify the dupes so far ensnared

Tell all teachers that you are desirous

To show respect but ignore the virus

Go then, repeat your parody of dreams

Invent diversions to disguise your schemes

Incite from the crowd a robotic ovation

As you assert you are good for the nation

Attack each day with trumped up nomenclature

Claim leftist foes will vandalise all nature

Go then recruit your crass disciples

Have them speak in platitudes and trifles

Then orchestrate with nonstop fake applause

And add to the mix your trivial encores

Finish with fireworks as a master stroke

Let the gross illusion go up in smoke

There’s a lesson to be had from this inanity

Dominion can be yours over all humanity


Formula For Success

One People One Nation One Leader

Never own up to anything

Claim you are always right

If what you do is challenged

Stage a smoke screen fight

Then divert attention

With abuse and clangour

And carefully fail to mention

The original cause of anger

If you’re embarrassed

Find someone to deplore

And make sure he is harassed

In ways none can ignore

Then turn your mind to glory

Invent a golden age

Tell but half the story

Then let fantasy rule the stage

Pretend you’ve invented the golden rule

Create some Elysian Fields

Turn your opponent into a tool

As to desire he yields

Promise the world with your fingers curled

Around a money bag

Praise the nation with banner unfurled

Then smile and kiss the flag

Spread divinity across your face

And declare your faith in God

Pretend you care for the human race

Then give rich backers the nod

This above all to your own schemes be true

And it shall follow as the night the day

Your opponents will shrivel away


A Moral Tale

All hail the great achiever!

O once upon a time in a native strand

A smart man felt just born to rule the land

He wove a tale people liked to hear

And vowed to make all woes disappear

He promised the moon one day in June

All the folk heard his merry tune

His vow related to law and order

This cured John Doe of his sleep disorder

He poised alert like one of the sages

Then systematically cut people’s wages

When his mob gave praise and said encore

The hero went off and started a war

He was quite proud this created more jobs

And made him one of the world’s heartthrobs

He didn’t notice his new found shame

As the deaths of thousands brought him fame

When the going got tough at a later election

He devised a plan that was close to perfection

With a racist slant he was on the go

And revived the perversion that is Jim Crow

He got into power in the witching hour

Did dark deeds that turned life sour

His ways were slimy and oozed vulgarity

Yet still he lost no popularity

As time went by that fame grew fast

But the idol’s next deal was to be his last

He took fake pills from a counterfeit concocter

And died before they could send for a doctor


At The Top Of The Tree

A Chieftain Observed

Peter Crumpkin was a bumpkin

And got to the top of the tree

He had a head like the top of a pumpkin

And a brain the size of a pea

He spoke every word in a manner absurd

And his deeds were an absolute farce

He promised the world and the people stirred

But none of it came to pass

Every day in his usual way

He would make a weird proclamation

But the only excuse he could think of to say

Was it’s all for the good of the nation

His lies flowed fast an expensive repast

For all of the innocent flock

The trouble was the truth came last

And the country went into shock

Riots broke out and shattered the peace

As children started to cry

Yet all he could do was call in the police

And watch the mob pass by

Now anger rose as the saying goes

And discord stirred the masses

PT said we could cure all woes

If we started to eat molasses 

That was the level of thought he wrought

Irrelevance was his stance

The land was doomed as a last resort

To be led on his merry dance

But time is the cure all fools must endure

In the end the electors were wiser

They chose Rosa Parks with her great allure

Even though this did surprise her

So the bumpkin faded away that day

To a fate his kind espouses

A career befitting his life you might say

As all he does now is sell houses


A Fatal Lark With Quarks

O the grand old Duke of Parx

He had ten thousand quarks

He took them up to the top of the hill

As one of his typical larks

Now when they were up they were down

And when they were down they were up

Duplicity was a golden chance

For him to act the clown

So off he went to Westminster

Then came a deed quite sinister

He sold the quarks at a ruinous price

To the not too bright prime minister

Now here we avoid metonymy 

As we say this destroyed the economy

Wages fell and it rained like hell

And postponed all astronomy

This was not all of the terrible fall

That sent stock brokers to the wall

The market crashed as experts clashed

And business slowed to a crawl

The end came fast at the very last

Leaving observers aghast

For revolution was in the air

With the PM a thing of the past

So the old world quickly changed

Even lovers were estranged

In came a brave new order

A whole nation was rearranged

O the grand old Duke of Parx

He had ten thousand quarks

He took them up to the top of the hill

As one of his deadly larks


Now this one is not a rapscallion

There you sit

On a footpath as people pass by

Rarely giving you the eye

Acceptance leaks from your countenance

As your body leans awry

Your music is oddly fragile now

As the world is holier than thou

And all you do really is beg for money

To taste the bread and honey of others

In a social climate that smothers

You and the other misfits of the age

On your shoulder I dream up a raven

O yes your image is craven

But the bird is ready to plunder

The domains of indifferent passers by

While you sit torpidly under

The spell of longing for the tinkle of cash

Into your music case

So play on dear victim of laws that don’t exist

That might have saved you from the failure’s list

Here is my token

A pathetic kindness to a spirit broken

Mere petty cash to ease the pain

But I will remember you if I pass again




George Orwell: Wikimedia Commons

Recently I have been interested in the promotion by William D. Lutz of what he borrowed from George Orwell, DOUBLESPEAK. This involves words whose true significance is not what it seems to be. I have had some fun with my own examples. Here is my list of interpretations.

indefinite detention

gaol without trial


a folly that got you elected

committee meeting

a place where inaction is given the go ahead

big government

government functions not yet privatised

people smugglers

your excuse for indefinite detention

previously loved/enjoyed


level playing field

where nobody notices corporate collusion


a place where you drive past slowcoaches 

with great respect

strongly disagree

I thank the honourable member for the question

I am about to abuse the questioner

lunatic fringe

opponents with policies opposed to yours

border protection

approved chauvinism

listen to the experts

you choose the experts

last resort of fools

policies different from your own

business confidentiality

secret deals

tested by time

unaware of the latest discoveries

clean coal 

truthful lies

robust manufacturing sector

profit before climate

golden opportunity

an improbable outcome

extreme right

wolves in sheep’s clothing

extreme left

sheep in wolves’ clothing

centre party

a group who can’t make up their mind

public relations 

tall-tale influence inducing affluence

economic rationalism

rational ways of making irrational decisions

no such thing as a free lunch

put your money where your mouth is


replacing costly labour with cheap slave labour overseas


letting somebody else make your mistakes

classified information

covering your tracks or hiding your crimes


dismissing staff

red tape

regulations that restrict corporate exploitation or proliferation


personal or party source of funds

checks and balances

cheques and bank balances


a unity that only war or pandemic can achieve

dark horse

a rational, concerned candidate free of party politics

your grass roots

where you fund just before an election (AKA pork barreling)


organised shots of you to foster your false image

spin doctors

highly paid liars who work for you


insight into the future from the oracle

bill of rights

a human rights declaration tyrants prevent from happening

law and order

power to stop dissent

dog whistles

words (whistles) only dogs, racists or gullible voters hear


Using language to distort or even reverse the meaning of unpalatable information that has to be given. Allegedly the amalgam of two George Orwell’s creations from his novel 1984, Doublethink and Newspeak. Source:

Yet More University Adventures

The Phoenix People performing in a TIE play: Imagination Can Set You Free: Nepean CAE in the 1970s

Maybe you have seen my descriptions of earlier journeys into academia. This is an account of my studies for a third degree. Special memories.

What a powerful influence on our lives the theatre has been. It is so involved with our language. We have a theatre of war and our lives are saved in an operating theatre. When young people die in a road accident, it is a tragedy. Our rivals will constantly steal the limelight and try to upstage us. The policy of our political opponents is either a farce or a comedy of errors. That frivolous lady friend will always be making a scene and in spite of her, all the world’s still a stage. A policeman might unmask a criminal and make a dramatic arrest. A car model might make a world debut and a debutant might play a leading role with an orchestra. Politicians might get a chorus of approval. It is such fun to study the theatre because it is so relevant to our lives.

I began my next degree course, an MA in English Literature, at the University of Sydney. The main focus was on theatre although there was some consideration of other literary forms.

I enjoyed for example, discovering the haruspication –  in ancient Rome the interpretation of omens by inspecting the entrails of sacrificial animals – in Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. In this case the sacrificial animal was a wounded airman observed by the central character Yossarian.

The divination theme was a powerful literary trick that swept me away because it was so powerful when you discovered it. I enjoyed the satire too.

Then there was Jane Austen, with her small piece of ivory two inches wide on which she “worked with so fine a brush” (her own words). There she was, writing at a time of great upheaval yet she was content with a study of manners. 

Just fancy: here was a great woman author unable to publish using her own name. I have long enjoyed the ironic realism of her work and have taught HSC classes about Emma. When you teach, there is no doubt you learn something twice.

That’s all I have room for regarding other literary content. We studied lots more.  But now for the theatre.

It is such a vast subject too. I want to share more detail of that study of mine so I’ll focus the rest of this post mostly on my condensed version of its story as I learned it all those years ago (in the 70s).

A History of Western Theatre

You can’t escape the influence of the ancient Greeks when you trace the story of our theatre. The theatron was their “seeing place,” originally for viewing ceremonies dedicated to the gods. The orkhestra was the dancing and singing place; quite different from today’s symphony connotation. It was simply a flat area where the chorus danced, presumably often to music although none of that remains.The skene was the changing tent or the place where the fatal action occurred. The Greeks never killed in public view. It was always done “offstage” in the skene.

A catastrophe was originally a turning point for the ancient chorus dancers. It meant a “turning down.” Antistrophe was another turning point this time meaning “turning against.” The chorus had traditional movements. I find the ancient word for an actor most interesting. Guess what it was: hupokrites. So the original actors were hypocrites. What a surprising and wonderful thing language is.

We have only a small percentage of ancient Greek drama available to us. The comic and tragic masks are well known though.

Masks. Attribution: Creative Commons

Masks were a definite way of portraying character. Actors would step offstage, change masks and become a different character. Sophocles apparently was an actor at first but lacked the required strong voice so turned to writing.

I believe the acoustics in the plays’ amphitheatres were very good. One of my friends who visited Greece told me so.

The word “drama”by the way comes from the Greek drao “I do.” Reminds me of a saying I have used on and off during my teaching: “I hear what you say but I see what you do.” Drama in all its forms in the classroom remains a passion with me. Actions speak louder than words is the old cliché that still seems relevant here.

As part of our studies at Sydney, we were required to read extensively from the few remaining plays of the ancient Greek period. I remember quite well the Oresteia of Aeschylus and Aristophanes’ great comedies Lysistrata and Frogs, as well as Medea by Euripides and Sophocles’ play Antigone. I won’t discuss them or any others here as I want to talk more about the theatre itself.

Now the chorus was a vital part of the Greek theatre. It had a leader. Thespis of Icaria (c. 6th century BC) is believed to be the first chorus leader with lines distinct from the rest of the chorus; that is he was the first actor (?). He apparently wrote plays with one actor. Aeschylus is thought to have pioneered more than one speaking part. Some writers say Sophocles gave us three actors although others think Aeschylus gave us all three.

At this time I came across Aristotle’s term catharsis. To him tragedy had a cleansing effect, causing the audience to suffer with the characters and then end up somehow cleansed with a better awareness. 

I later learnt of Bert Brecht’s alienation effect (Verfremdungseffekt) that took a different point of view. He seems to have sought to limit the audience’s emotional involvement and protect them from the brain washing that he alleged characterised traditional Western theatre. Brecht stressed that conscious awareness of ideas was essential for true understanding of theatre. For this effect he would from time to time write something outside the written narrative to remind the audience that it was theatre and not the real world, to break the spell you might say, perhaps to check up on whether that audience was paying attention.

This site is worth a read for Brecht.

So there we have two philosophical positions: catharsis versus alienation. Theory and practice are not necessarily the same in our contemporary productions. I have come to think that the dramatist’s instructions are what truly matter, and I am not very fond of “director’s theatre” where original ideas are often cast aside.

One of the problems I have with this post is the vastness of the subject matter. How can you deal with two and a half thousand years in a single post? I’ve decided simply to rely on pleasant memories as they come to mind. So it will not necessarily result in orderly chronology.

The Golden Age

What an incredibly fruitful era for theatre began during the reign of Elizabeth I! The period from 1580 to 1630 must be considered a golden age for dramatists. Before that time the status of actors and theatre in society was very low indeed.

The 1572 Vagabonds Act said that…all common players and minstrels not belonging to a Baron of the Realm or a person of higher status, and without a licence from at least two justices of the peace, “shall be taken and adjudged to be deemed Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars.” 

Actors were linked with pedlars, tinkers, jugglers and “petty chapmen” as undesirables and ready to be punished at law.

What a change came over theatre life during the period in question! Distinguished people including the royal Elizabeth and James came forward as sponsors of theatre companies. Actors had theatres for performance instead of inns or rooms in rich people’s houses. Theatre companies flourished. Audiences grew to fantastic heights.

Actors were suddenly significant and reputable. Some became the equivalent of our movie stars. Edward Alleyn, for example, was very rich. So rich that he founded a College – Dulwich – that still exists.

One of his claims to fame was his marriage to entrepreneur Philip Henslowe’s stepdaughter Joan. Henslowe was a very influential figure, an impressario, frequently paying advances to dramatists and thus promoting a spectacular array of plays for performance.

Alleyn was famous for his roles with three of Marlowe’s characters: Tamburlaine, Barrabas (the Jew of Malta) and Faustus. Richard Burbage, son of theatre builder James Burbage, was another distinguished actor. Shakespeare often wrote with these actors in mind when he created characters.

When his first wife Joan died, Alleyn married Constance, the very young daughter of John Donne, poet and Dean of St Paul’s – much  to the anger of Donne and his wife. When he died, Alleyn was worth six times as much as Shakespeare. No mean effort.

Burbage was very successful too, although not as rich as Alleyn. He was a boy actor with great success in women’s roles and worked his way into prominence as an adult. Shakespeare wrote these roles especially for Burbage: all the kings, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear.

Alleyn and Burbage were the leading actors of the time, very popular. But there were many others, including Nathan Field and Gabriel Spencer who enjoyed considerable success.

Spencer had a tragic life. He was an argumentative type and killed a man in a fight. He in turn was killed by Ben Johnson. To avoid execution, Johnson took the Church. That is he recited a required biblical text, the first verse of Psalm 51 known as the ‘neck verse,’ and became overtly religious, thus avoiding the hangman. He kept up this holy persona for twelve years.

While on the subject of Johnson (a close friend of Shakespeare), I found his partnership with Inigo Jones in the creation of court masques fascinating. If you get the chance to see the wonderful stage settings of Inigo Jones in colour, I recommend you see them. This site shares a little of that background.

Dramatists other than Shakespeare in the golden age mentioned above are also a captivating group. One who interested me greatly was Kit Marlowe.

Marlowe was a brilliant innovator as well as a spy for the Queen and died young in a tavern (aged 29), murdered (I believe) by another spy. During his studies for his MA at Cambridge he was frequently absent. When there was some doubt about him graduating because of his long absence, a message from the Queen via the Privy Council, insisted he be granted graduation as he had been absent from studies on important royal business. 

This business was looking for Catholic conspirators overseas. Despite the many other possible reasons now given for his death, I think he was executed because he had become an embarrassment to Sir Francis Walsingham, head of Elizabeth’s spy network. His plays, especially Tamburlaine, The Jew Of Malta  and Doctor Faustus were great successes.

Despite the triumph of the theatre in the age I mention, life was hard and many of Shakespeare’s contemporary dramatists had tragic lives. Take Thomas Kyd for instance, the author of a groundbreaking and highly successful play: The Spanish Tragedy.

Unexpectedly Kyd was arrested and tortured by government authorities in a quest for evidence against Christopher Marlowe. Had Marlowe lived in our age he would have been studied by MI-5.

One of the interesting features of the time was that many dramatists worked together to construct their plays. This was the case with Kyd and Marlowe. As Marlowe had fallen out of favour, authorities were using Kyd to get evidence on him. Hence the torture.

Soon after this arrest Kyd died at the tender age of 35. The torture produced little for the government but left Kyd very ill.

One of the interesting features for me of Kyd’s life was his attendance at the Old Merchant Taylor’s School. In 1989 I played cricket on their lovely ground during a tour of England with the Australian Old Collegians. Edmund Spenser, who later wrote The Faerie Queene, also attended that school. 

Robert Greene was another tragic figure. He was born c.1560. He had a BA from Cambridge and an MA from Oxford, a rare feat in any age. He wrote a number of plays, that were very popular. One of these, Orlando Furioso, he sold to a theatre company and then, while the company were touring, he sold it again – this time to Philip Henslowe the main entrepreneur of the time. Greene had become desperate for money.

One of his plays, Ponderoso, influenced Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Greene was a very bitter critic of Shakespeare, calling him “an upstart crow.” Greene died in poverty at the age of 32 in 1592.

George Peele was another dramatist who met a sorry end, also dying in poverty. He was a brilliant scholar, with a BA and MA from Oxford. His plays included the Old Wives’ Tale a comedy,The Battle of Alcazar, a patriotic play, and a biblical play: The Love of King David and Bethsabe. His death was a sordid affair.

So life was tough in these times when you fell out of the company of the powers that be. Shakespeare we all know was the brilliant success with no worries concerning money.

There were so many other dramatists in this golden age. They included George Chapman, Thomas Dekker, John Marston, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, John Webster, John Ford and Philip Massinger.

I’ve got space to talk about George Chapman here. He spent a bit of time with Ben Johnson in gaol for writing a smash hit play,  Eastward Ho, that offended King James. He was perhaps more famous as a brilliant translator of the classics. I remember in another place studying John Keats’ lovely sonnet: “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold, 

And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; 

Round many western islands have I been 

Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. 

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told 

That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne; 

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene 

Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: 

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 

When a new planet swims into his ken; 

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes 

He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men 

Look’d at each other with a wild surmise— 

Silent, upon a peak in Darien. 

Chapman seems to have led a more peaceful life, having given up writing plays to concentrate on translating the great works of his past.

Long before Shakespeare’s age there was another event from my study of the history of theatre that stays in my memory. It was perpetrated by Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester from 963 to 984. After the fall of Rome with the onset of the so-called Dark Ages, events to be described as theatrical were limited indeed.

Ethelwold did something that contributed to a change of this. Looking at his church service one day he was suddenly inspired to enliven the service by adding a little drama. He devised what is now known as the Quem quiritis trope (“Whom do you seek?”). You can read about it here.

A trope is a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages, according to Merriam-Webster. So that was what Ethelwold did. He jazzed up the service to add force to the story.

I believe this was the first step in the rise of Church drama in the Middle Ages, the remarkable miracle, mystery and morality plays. We spent a lot of time reading these during that course. I remember The Second Shepherd’s Play and Noah’s Flood quite fondly. The morality play Everyman seems to me to have a timeless relevance.

As the director of tertiary student plays at one stage of my teaching, I became very interested in stagecraft, especially lighting and set design. This has a fascinating history from the deus ex machine of the Greeks, Hell mouth of the Middle Ages, Renaissance sets, elaborate melodrama stages of the Victorian era and lighting from limelight to Fresnels.  

When I go to the theatre, before the play begins I find myself caught up by the magic of that environment. I look at the lighting equipment when it’s visible. I think about the staging – whether it’s end staging or arena. I think of Wagner’s idea about gesamptkunstwerk, or “universal art work,” how the theatre becomes a remarkable combination of so many art forms including music – visual effects are so magical in the modern theatre; sound is important too. I always tried to include music when I was directing.

Another aspect of theatre coming to mind now from my studies is Expressionist drama. It involved a focus on the inner workings of the human mind. I recommend a visit to this site to experience the troubled Swedish life of August Strindberg, a major figure in this type of drama.

My interest here in Expressionism was especially focused on Eugene O’Neill, the American dramatist and Nobel Laureate.

Part of my reason is that I directed one of his plays during my time as a Sydney teacher. That play was The Emperor Jones. It’s a very good example of Expressionism. In the plot, Jones is a leader of natives on an island. He is a former murderer who has fled the United States. 

He is worshipped on the island as an “emperor” but suddenly loses face and has to flee. For the rest of the play a drum beat sounds to match the rhythm of his heart. That heart beats faster as the action moves towards a violent climax. Among the characters in the play are Formless Fears who writhe across the stage on one occasion. It’s very much an illustration of the inner mind.

One other joy I had with this course was the Commedia dell’arte (Comedy of the profession). The Commedia flourished in Italy and elsewhere from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. They were travelling players who wore character masks, improvised heavily and devised dramas appropriate to the place where they were performing.

The Commedia influence spread from Italy to England via Shakespeare and France notably via Molière. The influence can be seen in The Tempest, Love’s Labour Lost and The Taming Of The Shrew and Tartuffe for example, by Molière.

Here is a good list of  Commedia characters.

Other characters began as stock masks and developed into well-known characters in the hands of the most talented players. The Capitano developed as a caricature of the Spanish braggart soldier, boasting of exploits abroad, running away from danger at home. He was turned into Scaramuccia by Tiberio Fiorillo, who, in Paris with his own troupe (1645–47), altered the captain’s character to suit French taste. As Scaramouche, Fiorillo was notable for the subtlety and finess of his miming. The zanni, who were often acrobats, or “tumblers,” had various names such as Panzanino, Buratino, Pedrolino(or Pierrot), Scapino Fritellino, Trappolino, Brighella, and most notably, Arlecchino and Pulcinella (related to the English Punchinello, or Punch). Pulcinella, like Capitano,“outgrew” his mask and became a character in his own right, probably created by Silvio Fiorillo (died c. 1632), who had earlier created a famous Capitano, Mattamoros. Columbina, a maidservant, was often paired in love matches with Arlecchino, Pedrolino, or the Capitano. With Harlequin she became a primary character in the English pantomime’s harlequinade. The zanni had already been differentiated as comic rustic and witty fool. They were characterised by shrewdness and self-interest; much of their success depended on improvised action and topical jokes. Arlecchino (Harlequin), one of the zanni, was created by Tristano Martinelli as the witty servant, nimble and gay; as a lover, he became capricious, often heartless. Pedrolino was his counterpart. Doltish yet honest, he was often the victim of his fellow comedians’ pranks. As Pierrot, his winsome character carried over into later French pantomimes. The zanni used certain tricks of their trade: practical jokes (burle)—often the fool, thinking he had tricked the clown, had the tables turned on him by a rustic wit as clever, if not so nimble, as his own—and comic business (lazzi).

Source: Britannica

Another Point Of Interest

It is the revival of the Commedia in Italy after World War II by Amleto and Donato Sartori. There is now an International Museum of the Mask in Abano Terme near Padua in Italy. After my degree study, in 1989, I went to Padua and talked to Donato about the Commedia and mask making. The manufacture of masks is a highly specialised art form. Actors at the time of my visit went to Padua and stayed there for a considerable time being measured and modelled until the mask virtually grew on their face.

Here is a picture of an Arlecchino mask. It’s mine. I bought it in Venice for around $300.

My final task for this degree was to write a long essay with two aims: a critique of the plays of Robert Bolt and an account of my Theatre In Education work at Nepean College Of Advanced Education.

Robert Bolt has my enduring respect. I haven’t read his plays since those readings before 1980 but they are still vivid in my mind. I remember my sympathy for the central character in Flowering Cherry when he finally over reaches and dies. The Tiger and the Horse also generated my sympathy for the wife of the ambitious professor who finally realises what he has done to his wife through his relentless drive.

A Man For All Seasons  is one of my favourite plays. I particularly remember the role of the common man who acts as a chorus and as other characters including the executioner.

The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew inspired me as a teacher. In my many teaching days I have not found a better work for children.

Vivat! Vivat Regina! is another play I remember with much respect. I remember especially the dignity with which Mary Queen of Scots faced the executioner.

State of Revolution, Bolt’s last performed play, was produced after I studied for this degree.

Theatre In Education (TIE)

Theatre in Education is my passionate field, and I have had considerable experience in it. I had my own student TIE Company, the Phoenix People, at Nepean CAE. The group performed with dignity and success in Western Sydney schools for audiences totalling more that 4,000. 

To complete my final task for the degree I had to write an account of this aspect of my teaching days. First we contacted schools around the College offering to write and perform plays on the subject of their choice. Two plays resulted, one Imagination Can Set You Free, an Arthurian play about the heroic defeat of a dragon, and Billy Button, the story of a teenage convict who was sent to New South Wales.

In my later years, I went to Coventry, by choice that is, and interacted with the Belgrade TIE Company, the originators of TIE. I used this 1987 study leave to explore theatre throughout much of Australia, in Italy, Germany, France, and in the UK.

Here are images of the King Arthur TIE play: The audience: School for Deaf and Blind, Sydney.

Here is a newspaper action shot of the Billy Button play.

School: St Marys Primary

I hope this humble set of recollections, despite my numerous flaws and omissions, touches on some of the joys of the study experience. How lucky I was to have studied before the imposition of the HECS tax on students! My knowledge from those three degrees has been shared with thousands of students. That learning was supported by governments, not penalised.


Here is the third testamur (Pass with Merit).

Still More University Days And Nights

Another Continuation of My University Story

I began my MEd studies the year after I graduated with my BA, 1968. In the meantime I moved from my position at Granville Boys High School to History Master at Dover Heights Girls High School. Geographically my new teaching position was relatively close to the University of New South Wales, my place of study. This was a help.

If you are a teacher, the interesting thing about such part time study of eduction is how linked it is to your profession. Somehow it makes you think twice about teaching behaviour that previously had seemed natural and appropriate.

The course work I elected to do was Child Growth and Development and Educational Planning and Administration. The second choice turned out to be a wise one when I moved to the girls’ high school as there, for the first time, I was in charge of a school department with several staff members.

I still remember much of Child Growth and Development, probably because it was so relevant to my teaching in so many different ways. I remember Freud and his id, ego and super ego. Those unconscious urges were interesting then but as time passed, I realised there was much more to learn about human behaviour. 

I remember, during that year of study, thinking how clever Shakespeare was to have Lady Macbeth constantly wash her hands to wash away her guilt. That novel Freudian idea fades away in the context of Coronavirus doesn’t it? Another memory is the struggle between life force Eros and Thanatos or death instinct. I remember feeling happy about Freud’s belief in the dominating strength of Eros.

In later life I have also learned that Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, possibly had more immediate and dramatic influence on society than his uncle. Bernays’ Public Relations are so much a part of modern life aren’t they?

Carl Jung is also there in my memory but I remember most clearly his notion of the collective unconscious. Somehow there still seems to be some justification for this idea. I found Jung’s opinions convincing, despite his critics. This is possibly because as a history teacher I have come to believe that we cannot escape the past.

Jean Piaget is the dominant part of my recollection regarding this course of study. I was quite swept away by the links I saw between his stages of learning and pupils I had taught, especially in my infants teaching stage. Piaget’s emphasis on the power of teaching as a part of cognitive development inspired me.

Piaget’s theory concerning the way a child constructs meaning at different stages, still rings true to me. Especially welcome is his view that intelligence is not an unchanging, predetermined statistic.

Erik Erikson is another memory of an important cognitive theorist.  I learnt about how he too believed in stages of development, in his case eight, linked to psychosocial interaction. He reminded me, in a number of ways, of Freud. His notion of stages depended on a series of crises from birth to adulthood, with success linked to trust in the earliest stage. His notion of “basic trust” seems to knock on my memory door. I still find Erikson interesting but wonder if any theorist can tell the whole story – can control all the variables of any research.

Behaviourists had an important place in this course. I remember especially Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect as a prelude to later behaviourism. Thorndike’s principle suggests that responses giving satisfaction will recur more often. Dissatisfaction will tend to reduce recurrence. I have not found any reason to criticise the Law of Effect. It seems so logical.

John Watson and B F Skinner were important in the course. They seemed to extend Thorndike’s work. Operant conditioning dominates my memories: learning through rewards and punishment in response to behaviour. At the time, this theory dominated much of my learning. In later life I have become less fond of these theorists because of the harshness of their techniques and the effects on the animals and children used for their research.

John Watson was a major early experience of behaviourism for me. Conditioning, as I said before, was the key to his influence – a dramatic extension of Pavlov. Behaviour was to be the source of prediction and control by the psychologist. The dangers of control are a warning I now feel in later life. When I was teaching in a university milieu, some of my colleagues used to speak of “behaviour mod.” as a useful tool to establish authority. These days it doesn’t have my absolute respect.

Then there was B F Skinner. What a champion he was for my lecturers! Not for me now. I remember the Skinner box, his invention for recording the behaviour of rats. For Skinner, learning was a series of conditioned responses always controlled by the environment. Mind was nothing but a myth.

I was asked to read his utopian novel Walden Two. This I did with some enjoyment. The title is an overt reference to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: a tale of a simple existence close to a natural environment. In Walden Two, everyone is happy as life is controlled by a program of behavioural engineering begun at birth. I remember a funny incident where a man gives performances as the World’s Greatest Bore. His performances are banned and shut down because he draws such vast crowds.

I remember especially John Bowlby and his Child Care and the Growth of Love. This researcher has stayed with me ever since, probably because I believe so strongly in the power of parental love for children. Mental health, Bowlby claimed, was closely linked to maternal care and was also a function of support from fathers and family members. In later life I have come to believe this even more strongly.

One of the interesting aspects of this program of study was the way examination trauma was reduced. We were given the final examination question on the first day of the course. This is a brilliant way to get rid of examination fears. It’s still rigorous as you have to produce your answer under examination conditions, and the answer reflects your study during the year. I managed a credit in the exam. A rare achievement for me.

My studies of Educational Planning and Administration were exciting. At 4PM every Wednesday for much of a year we met in a university room, chaired by the Professor of Education of the University, Professor J J Pratt. He was a truly wonderful teacher.

We talked about current administration experience each of us, the students, had. We took turns at holding the floor while the others made judgements and discussed solutions. We were a diverse group, working in a wide range of teaching climates. The discussions were very stimulating, with the Professor leading us to wider awareness of possible solutions to problems.

One of my memories stands out: Andrew Halpin, The Organisational Climate Of Schools. A most inspiring influence during these studies was this man. 

He was concerned intensely with what we still call school climate. I found his suggestion that every school can be distinguished by a unique administrative style or atmosphere very convincing.

To me then and now, this is like saying that each school has a personality similar to that of a particular person. As I have walked into so many schools during my lifetime, I have been struck by the range of different atmospheres (climates) unfolding. The children too, so often reflect the climate of the school – cheerful courtesy perhaps, or sometimes a cold, anxious stare.

In addition to Open and Closed climates, Halpin et al. referred to Paternal, Familiar, Controlled and Autonomous types. With the Paternal type the principal acts independently and does not use the leadership skills of his subordinates.

The Familiar Climate features much socialising but relatively little focus on task orientation. In contrast, the Controlled category is impersonal and features high concentration on task. The Autonomous Climate is characterised by leadership emerging from the group with little contact with the principal. The group is so focused on task achievement.

The two extremes I remember best. They have more support among academics than the other four categories. The Open Climate is characterised by what Halpin called “authenticity.” This involves both principal and staff working cooperatively and supportively. The Closed Climate is very different, featuring a more isolated principal, obsessed with trivia and matters irrelevant to the needs of the teaching staff. I have personally worked amidst both categories.

In all the years passing since my first study of Halpin, I have retained my respect for his approach. The terminology may change but the reality remains.

My own research program constituted the major task for this degree. I was interested in the effects of praise and blame on pupils’ classroom performance. The technique I used was interaction analysis after the Ned Flanders model (with no reference to the Simpsons), but as refined by Amidon, Edmund J and Hough, John J.

I used a control group, a praise group and a blame group. For performance data, I was testing (a) factual recall of specific lessons and (b) creativity, as defined by E Paul Torrance.

Torrance’s definition of creativity was interesting. Here it is quoted from the site given:

Torrance drew on contemporary research that related creativity to divergent thinking—the characteristic of coming up with more answers, or more original answers, rather than deriving a single best answer. That divergent-thinking trait might exhibit itself in different situations, so that, in Torrance’s view, the creativity shown by an artist was not different in type than the creativity shown by a scientist, a teacher, or a parent. The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking were the work of Paul Torrance’s lifetime. They are still widely used to assess students and job applicants, and have been translated into more than 50 languages.

Source: Studio 360 December 14, 2017 · 4:00 PM EST Producer Kerrie Hillman.

So a unique answer was highly creative while the less creative answers were those repeated often. I was fascinated by the possibility of furthering creativity in the human spirit. A dream I still have.

In my study I worked with several classes from state schools, including some of my own from Granville Boys High School and Dover Heights girls. In those days you had to get permission to do research in state schools. This was given to me by Dr Ralph Rawlinson, Head of Research for the Department of Education. I was very grateful for the support.

At that time when there was no internet, research tools were, compared to today’s, decidedly primitive. The computer was in its infant stage. The university had one. It was a very big infant; so big it was used by the government to process exams for the whole state of New South Wales.

You had to find a good time to use it. There was nothing like today’s sophistication, so you had to punch your experimental results on cards and feed them into the computer. A day or days later, when you came to collect your results, you hoped there was a big bundle waiting for you on the shelf. If it was thin, you knew that it had failed to process and you had to do it all again.

What of the results for my research? Life is complex and so is research into it. I standardised my praise and blame so that all groups had the same words. I controlled for age, for gender, for past success, for parents’ profession and even for windy days, using analysis of covariance. I checked the scores with Kruskal–Wallis one-way analysis of variance and studied regression with my results.

I found no significant difference with either praise or blame. That was a long journey that lasted years without the result I was seeking. But that journey was worth making and had its benefits for other researchers.

There was one significant complication during my studies. An event that made things a little more challenging.

It was the loss of a brief case with all my research in it. I put it on the roof of my VW Beetle when getting in and then drove off. I noticed a bit of a bump when I rounded a corner but didn’t think twice about it. When I arrived to do some work at the Dover Heights school, I realised what I had done.

I had to repeat parts of the research, not all of it because I had some duplication. I learnt later that some of the senior girls had gone looking for my brief case along the route I took. Deeds like that plus the support of Jean Pocock, the principal, helped me keep on with the voyage to completion. Eventually the journey ended and I wrote my thesis.

The title on the cover is:


Three copies were made: one for the library, one for the faculty and one I still own. You can read the University’s copy in the archives. Its contents still have a place in my mind all these years later. I realise now I told only a small part of the story and I still have so much to learn.


More University Days and Nights

A Continuation Of The University Story

My journey to self awareness continued in 1963. My previous post (located below this one on this site) tells the story of the first two years.

I was feeling much more confident when my third university year began. I enrolled in English III and Education I. The latter was actually a second year subject. Psychology I or Philosophy I were prerequisites.

I managed more time in libraries then, despite my teaching commitments after being placed on Primary Promotion List 1. Remember there was no internet at this time. Information was far more remote than a click away. You had to work hard to get it, often competing with fellow students who were on the same mission in those libraries.

Modern English literature was the theme of English III. Dennis Biggins, father of the distinguished actor Jonathan 

and of other successful siblings, continued inspiring me as head of English.

I remember doing well in an essay on sexuality in the modern novel. I still recall much of my analysis, ranging through Sigmund Freud, D H Lawrence, Hemingway, Joyce, E M Forster and others beyond my memory.

I have just found an interesting article on E M Forster. It goes so much further than I went in my essay. There is always so much more to learn about everything isn’t there? 

I had a major problem while doing my final English exam. A sabre jet fighter plane from Williamtown air base, crashed just down the road from the University. Pandemonium broke out. There were sirens and bells ringing out and I quite lost my train of thought. The result was a viva voce test for me later.

Griff Duncan, former Principal of Newcastle Teachers College, became a Professor at the University and was one of my inspiring Education lecturers. Like so many of my teachers of that time he is now a university building. Our main concern during the course was to compare various education systems from around the world with our own.

I remember Scandinavian education, especially Finland. I have found a present day site that is worth visiting. It helps to explain the respect I felt for Finland all those years ago.

Another fascinating foreign insight came concerning the Jamaica Youth Corps. Here was a role model of interest to Australian teachers and I dreamed that one day I might be able to create a replica of it here. Alas that did not happen, but the philosophy of the West Indian locale influenced my teaching. This site well captures the spirit of the place.

Exam time loomed again according to the nature of things. I passed comfortably in Education and my viva voce English test went well. My teaching salary increased with this success, as I was now considered three year trained.

In the next year I studied Education II and History II. In Education we researched a ground breaking 1963 document from England, the Newsom Report: ‘Half Our Future.’ It made a case for children below the 50% level, the failures or under achievers, as opposed to the elite top decile.

That study of mine had a profound effect on my teaching. Later in life I found myself in classrooms with what were known as GA or General Activities pupils. These were depressed high school students who found normal lessons beyond them. 

Many of them were simply passing time until the school leaving age arrived. Such pupils as these were precisely the subject matter of the Newsom Report. I remember one of the pupils saying to me, “Gee Sir, you must be dumb having to teach us.” Spelling lists tended to include such words as danger, poison, wrong way go back, and keep off the grass. I did what I could to give them self respect, and helped them stand in other people’s shoes through drama.

History and philosophy of education were also my focus for study in this year. Another profound influence on the rest of my life. I learnt that education in Ancient Greece was not for all citizens. 

Privilege existed and best served the elite, for example excluding women and slaves. Plato’s emphasis on education for social justice has influenced me ever since. Here is a rather good contemporary summary of Plato’s impact.

We moved on to Saint Thomas Aquinas of the thirteenth century, a vast influence on universities in particular, but also on the earlier stages of child development. His emphasis on moral values has echoed into the present, especially in religious schools.This article is a very thorough treatment of Thomism. It is quite long and you may not read all of it, but I found it interesting.

I remember so well John Locke’s definition of early learning as writing on a blank slate or ‘tabula rasa.’ My clear recollection is probably because it is exactly opposite to my views. There is much of value in Locke’s writing, as I remember it, but I have a problem with the blank slate.

Rousseau’s Emile  was another inspiration. What a joy for teachers with big classes to dream of a one to one ratio: one teacher one pupil. Here is a summary of the influence of Rousseau that reminds me of my past studies.

I met John Dewey, the Progressivist, as part of this course. His burning desire to change society through the learning and verve of the young, inspired me. Social reform was Dewey’s mission.

I found Maria Montessori’s child-centred approach to teaching quite an inspiration. I note today that her influence is quite significant in Australia and throughout the world. 

Another interesting source of learning for me was the notion of Great Books, promoted by Robert Maynard Hutchins, among others. 

I found and still find the idea that a body of great books, say 150 in number, deserves to be an important part of learning. Books, especially in those early years of mine, were ongoing things and could be read over and over. Now we move into the cyber age but great books are still available, especially through Project Gutenberg. The choice of books for the list was in Hutchins’ day decided by tradition and the judgement of reputable authorities. I am aware of the criticism of this idea from the perspective of multicultural education. I am still thinking about that. Maybe the selection of books could be multicultural. Ideas do need to focus on the needs of the pupils.

Teaching turned out to be my profession for a long time. Meeting these university masters of educational thought, even though it was at night and often after a hard day, was a great motivation. I continued willingly.

History II was another moving experience. We focused on modern British history. I remember vividly the Irish question. The Act of Union of 1801 I learned didn’t ease the tension between the English and the Irish. On the contrary.

I remember especially the Great Hunger during the 1840s in Ireland. A million Irish men, women and children died as a result of the famine, largely caused by the potato blight that swept Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. Apparently the English landlords promoted only one variety of potato, which didn’t help. I recall my lecturer pointing out that although famine was killing so many people, Irish citizens behind barricades had to watch food being loaded onto ships as export.

Another vivid memory I have is of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. I learnt to love Willie Yeats’ wonderful poem about this tragic event that cost so many Irish and other lives. I reproduce the last part of it here:

From Easter, 1916

By William Butler Yeats

Too long a sacrifice

Can make a stone of the heart.   

O when may it suffice?

That is Heaven’s part, our part   

To murmur name upon name,   

As a mother names her child   

When sleep at last has come   

On limbs that had run wild.   

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;   

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith   

For all that is done and said.   

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;   

And what if excess of love   

Bewildered them till they died?   

I write it out in a verse—

MacDonagh and MacBride   

And Connolly and Pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:   

A terrible beauty is born.

One of my lecturers in English remarked that Yeats was the greatest poet since Pope. I was not equipped to confirm this, but I was certainly a fan of Yeats. I read his Cuchulain plays at another time, another place.

Success in this year’s examinations meant that I had eight subjects to my credit. One more remained and I would have my degree.

We moved from Maitland to Sydney at the end of this year. This meant I had to enrol at Sydney University for one final subject. In a fit of aberration I chose Economics I.

When that course began, the professor announced that 40% of the students enrolled would fail. Numbers studying that subject were very great. I was to fall victim to the fail category. It is hard to describe the misery of finding that news on a notice board with my wife and a young child in a stroller.

The following year I chose to study American History III. Such a good year it was. It certainly made up for the previous year’s disappointment. Memories still come flooding back.

Frederick Jackson Turner’s moving frontier was so much more than a Hollywood western. As well as creating a special way of looking at American history, Turner’s moving frontier also promoted imperialism. The Mahan Doctrine concerning naval bases outside America, also contributed to the imperialist push.

I read of the Dred Scott case with considerable compassion. I learnt of its contribution to the Civil War climate, in itself a fascinating unit of study.

I did an essay on Social Darwinism in the US. Darwin’s critical influence on such Robber Barons as Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan et al., with the help of Herbert Spencer, made interesting reading. Those survival-of-the-fittest disciples were a tough bunch.

Another thing I remember well was William Jennings Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” speech. How could I forget it. It was so poignant. So relevant to the suffering American millions. So brilliant. Here is the last paragraph. A moving thing. He wanted to give silver to the poor at the expense of gold.

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the labouring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

William Jennings Bryan, presidential candidate 1896, 1900, 1908

There, in Bryan, was a great speaker. It was quite sad in some ways that he met his doom at the Scopes Monkey Trial, even though his prosecution case was unjust. 

The Immigration Act of 1924 was another interesting part of American history to study. It was an obverse response to the massive immigration wave surging into America during the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. No longer would teeming hordes enter the US via Ellis Island. Today, that past learning experience of mine about America, makes me view Australia’s present immigration policy more clearly.

From the Boston Tea Party to Wilson’s Fourteen Points American history reached out to me.  Australia has so many links with American life: films, cars, politics and world war history. I found non stop study fascinating and worth every moment.

To add to my enjoyment, I passed the exam. I was finally a Bachelor of Arts. Life was moving on in the right direction at last.


University Days and Nights

I have three degrees and all my studies were free, apart from a few insignificant charges. Why is this so? It’s because I am 86 and belong to the Silent Generation. That placed me before the neocon John Sydney Dawkins  put a hex on university learning. As Labor Education Minister 1987-91, he decided to make education a business instead of a right. Lucky me. I had no hellish university debt to pay off while I was raising children and getting a home.

I believe my category, the Silent Generation, those born between between 1928 and 1945, gets its name inter alia from the McCarthy era, where we were too afraid to speak lest we be declared communists.

I always wanted to go to university. I was disappointed not to qualify when I did the Leaving Certificate. I passed but didn’t matriculate. That left me two choices. I could do the exam again or wait until I turned 25 when I could apply for university entry.

Fate intervened to give me another place to study. There was a desperate need for teachers in the late Forties, thanks to the Baby Boomers (1946 -1964). My pass was good enough to get me into Bathurst Teachers College, so off I went.

Two years there and three years primary teaching gave me my Teaching Certificate. I was only 22 then.

Three years later, at the required mature age of 25+, I tried my luck as a correspondence student with the University of New England. My destiny at this time was not written in the stars.

Circumstances were not exactly conducive to part time study. I was teaching in a very isolated, one-teacher school: nineteen pupils, no electricity, no water laid on, a pit toilet and no weekend accommodation. I spent my weekends with my parents, seventy odd miles away in Raymond Terrace. Each of the summer Saturdays (I confess) was spent playing cricket for Stockton in the Newcastle cricket competition.

My first attempt at studies took me into English and Psychology. I was very naive still and as I have already said, very isolated. No company to discuss problems. No easily accessed library. My failure was written on the subway walls. I did so well in one psych essay the lecturer posted it to all the other students doing the course. But my exam technique didn’t exist.

To sit the exam I had to go into the nearest town. There I was in the hands of a minister of the church. A lovely man with a lovely wife. I was given tea and biscuits using superb crockery. 

That wonderful invigilator was a stickler for the rules. I was the sole candidate, working alone in a room. When my reading time began, he rang a little bell for me. Ten minutes later he rang me the little bell again to announce the beginning of writing time. Ten minutes before the end of examination time he rang the bell again and announced the warning. Finally the bell proclaimed the end of the examination. Those two people are a happy memory of a not so happy time.

My teaching went well however, which was very important to me, and I earned a very good inspection report. With cricket I was chosen in the Newcastle representative team. So I was not completely forlorn.

Things changed when I married in 1961. My wife Judy had a degree from Sydney University. She changed my life in so many ways. I was a virgin bachelor, 28 years old, with so much to learn about life, when we married. Somehow our togetherness helped me gain new confidence to try again to study.

Off I went to the University of Newcastle administration. I was interviewed by Professor Brin Newton-John, of Bletchley Park fame and father of Olivia. He gave me my chance. Another landmark in my life. He was gently encouraging and somehow I felt more confident after talking with him. I enrolled in English I and Psychology I.

So I was a university student at last, at the age of 28. But was I going to succeed at last?  I was standing on shifting ground. Part time status, teaching in the day and studying at night. I was not sure of myself. Lectures and seminars were a vivid adventure. I was quite nervous. I was what was called “provisionally matriculated.” To confirm my place in the university I had to pass in those two subjects. No room for failure this time.

My lecturers were god-like creatures to me – so aware of so much. So knowledgeable. So interesting. Some other part-time students and I formed a team to help each other during that first year. It was Warren, Norman, Valerie and Royce. We discussed lectures and seminars, found talking points to consider and filled in any gaps for each other due to absence. It was a good plan and made a difference, certainly for me. Later in life I discovered that Valerie married Brin Newton-John. By a strange twist of fate my wife Judy taught their children at Fort Street just before she died.

English did much to lift my spirits as a student. It touched my soul. During that first year I became a different person. I befriended Chaucer, the Romantic poets, and a number of more recent stars including Ernest Hemingway and Eugene O’Neill.

Psychology changed my life as well. I was surprised how much time was devoted to statistics. One psychology lecturer played a mean trick on some of us. We were given a test in a lecture and half the group (me included) were told on the test paper that the test would count towards our final mark and the other half were told it was merely practice and would not count. A nice little controlled experiment, but not so nice for some of us who found the test very hard.

Chaucer was a different story. I loved the sound of his language. I learnt of his importance when he chose to write in English in the fourteenth century. I also loved his stories. I laughed at the Miller’s Tale, the Wife of Bath’s Tale taught me about women’s “soverainte” (“mastery”) in relationships, and the Pardoner’s Tale was to me an exposé of the human trend towards ruthless self-interest.

A passion for words and their meanings became part of my makeup  during that first year. I learnt for example, that Chaucer’s horses moved at a leisurely canter because they were going to Canterbury. I remember doing an essay based on the Oxford Dictionary’s pages  dealing with the word “commonwealth,” which was originally written  as two words: “common weal.” That memory includes visions of big dictionary pages telling the history of the word and making me realise that words in dictionaries are potent, alive and changeable things.

Assignments on semantic change were significant focuses of study. I found this most interesting. I remember King Lear describing himself as a “foolish fond old man” when “fond” meant “foolishly affectionate.”

Pray, do not mock me. I am a very foolish fond old man, Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less. I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

Act 4 Scene 7

I remember too my discovery that once the word ‘clue’ had nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes but referred to a ball of string. You can find similar unexpected meanings here in a contemporary resource, to help you taste the spirit of my earlier semantic adventures. There is also an excellent talk on the power of words.

With psychology I was sane enough. I moved with the spirit of investigating the human mind. Statistics challenged me but I survived. Life is just a radical equation after all.

As for the meat of the subject, my lecturers seemed to belong to the supporters of Spearman’s General Intelligence or g factor. Gardener’s multiple intelligence theories (the ones I lean towards today) had not yet arrived.

My study time then was actually a golden age of the Behaviourists (alas) and I gave them the respect as a student they didn’t deserve. John B Watson and BF Skinner were part of that experience. Things are different today, as you can confirm from more recent research. 

So much to learn. That was the experience of mine in a university of the Sixties! It’s still true isn’t it? Teaching had to come first however, and took up so much of my time and energy. I was a primary teacher in Maitland, and journeyed down to Newcastle after school for the lectures. I did the university assignments at night, often working to dawn or further when essays were due. 

I did well in an essay for psychology questioning the categorisation of humanity into races. The English essays went well too. Wordsworth, Blake, Shelley, Keats and Coleridge became new  idols. I understood their revulsion concerning the factory system and other aspects of their nineteenth century life, and I shared their rebellious spirit. Here is a contemporary site I have just visited. It reminds me of those days Romantic, and takes me a little further.

One strong memory I have is how I identified with the solitary wanderer of Romanticism. Here is one of the many poems I read. Not the most significant poem, but one I remember well.

The end of that first year came so quickly. All of the assignments were done on time. Then loomed the exams. I will never forget that anxiety. To my credit, at last I had good examination technique. I planned the time and no more leaving out whole questions.

Waiting for the results was a major agony. But I had a wife this time to share the burden. Wonder of wonders I passed in both subjects.

So I had arrived. Seven more subjects to complete. Each year to be a separate challenge.

Year 2 saw me studying English II and History I. The journey to knowledge continued.

I remember being swept away by the majestic imagery of Milton’s Paradise Lost mainly, but also by Paradise Regained. Coleridge’s claim that Satan was the real hero of Paradise Lost was quite but not completely convincing. The description of the war between the Satanic forces and the angels is so vivid and imaginative (Book 6).

My contact with lecturers continued to inspire me. Harri Jones in particular, an expert on Dylan Thomas, was a source of real influence. A lovely person, so knowledgeable in English and a little inclined to be tipsy in the late evening of his lectures. I got to know him a little better and gave him a lift in my car. He left his hat behind but I returned it later. I was very sad to learn, some years later, that he was drowned, falling into the sea I believe. His teaching of Under Milkwood was so interesting, as was that play’s radio genre.

I read James Joyce’s Ulysses right through. That was a major effort but a great enlightenment. We were told that some people regarded the whole work as a gigantic lyric poem. I loved the experience of the stream of consciousness.

What a brilliant idea Joyce had! To portray the continuous process of thought. I also learned that authorised printing of the book would require a large black dot after the last words, indicating the final moment of Bloom’s awareness.

History was another adventure. I had failed the subject in the Leaving Certificate. I also failed at teachers college – my only failure I think. I had a thing about the subject then, just after the school failure. Studies at this level were a different matter.

I remember the Peterloo Massacre very emotionally, and Shelley’s passionate poem inspired by the massacre. The last stanza of the poem is very moving:

‘Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number–

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you–

Ye are many — they are few.’

From “The Masque Of Anarchy” by Percy B. Shelley

I suppose it is all my teaching of the underprivileged that makes me feel that way. Here is a good print of the poem if you have the time and energy to read all of it.

We dealt with the great reforms in England during the nineteenth century. 

1832 and the Great Reform Bill was a major point of study. I learnt it was a significant event, but not as great as it sounded. Many more changes were needed. There is a neat summary of it here. Goodbye to rotten boroughs!

1867 was our next focus. “One man one vote” was still a distant dream despite the changes of this time.

As for women, they still had a long time to wait: until 1928 I seem to remember. Yes that’s right.

I recall my fascination with the Chartists. Idealism has been around for a long time.

I love chocolate, although I am not supposed to eat it these days. Maybe that is partly why Seebohm Rowntree’s study of the poor of York in 1899 moved me profoundly. It led to the beginning of the welfare state in England.

Sport was another reason I was now beginning to feel at home at the university. Regulations demanded that because I was a student, I had to leave the Stockton cricket team and play for Newcastle University. I made many university friends in the cricket side of things.

Also I was chosen to represent the Newcastle Cricket Association against South Australia, Western Australia and the Cricket Club of India and I was also selected in an Australian Universities team. I was awarded a Blue by the university. My skill on the cricket field helped my confidence quite a lot, but far outstripped my ability as a student. Nevertheless I kept doggedly on with my studies.

And what about the second year of exams? Wonder of wonders, I passed again.

I will share some more of my journey in my next post. Au revoir. 


Only a dream at this stage
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