Memories Of A Second Class Cricketer

A Good Innings

 III

“Look after that shine please!”

John Blomley, Brilliant Swing Bowler

imagesAttribution: Wiki Commons

I have explained earlier, in my personal cricket narrative, that in 1958 I gave up my sporting ambition and returned to teaching. My appointment at a one-teacher school in the outer reaches of the Hunter Valley, with week-day accommodation only, meant that I spent my weekends closer to the city of Newcastle. So how could I not play cricket again?

The 1960 green field I had the good fortune to return to was situated at Stockton, on the north side of the Hunter River. It was a joyous return to the welcoming friendships and support I found there in that club that was a vibrant part of the Newcastle competition. I hope my surviving team mates and all families will forgive me if I focus just on one team-mate. After all these years I realise more strongly that ever what a brilliant human being he was.

My motive therefore is to make this little piece of mine an obituary in effect to a special friend, John Blomley. Off the cricket field when I knew him, John was a doctor serving the Stockton community in particular. On the playing field he was a star. That star shone not only on the cricket field. As a medical student he had been a fine Rugby Union centre-three quarter with Sydney University, New South Wales and Australia.

Here is a little more on the football side of things:

Born 7 March 1927 at Tumbarumba in New South Wales, Blomley attended St Joseph’s College, Sydney where he came under the watchful eye of the famous rugby coach, Brother Henry. Here, the young Blomley learned the rudiments of the game. Brother Henry insisted on a solid foundation for the young footballer. “There is no room in a college fifteen for a boy whose hands are not safe,” he counselled. “All the footballers at the college must learn the rudiments of the game.”

So Brother Henry turned out Jack Blomley as a polished inside back. After leaving St Joseph’s College in 1944, Blomley entered Sydney University to study medicine and naturally played for Sydney University in the metropolitan competition.

… Although he declared himself unavailable for the Australian Universities tour of New Zealand early in the year, Blomley looked forward to the 1949 representative season with the Maori side touring Australia for a Test series to be followed by a Wallaby tour of New Zealand. Blomley won selection in the New South Wales team that met the Maoris in the third match of their tour. The visitors produced a strong forward display to win 19-14, but Blomley did enough to be selected to play for Australia in the first Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

(Source: Loc.cit. the link below)

Here is an image of John at the height of his Football power. He was known as Jack in his Rugby days.

blomley-john

  Attribution: Loc. cit. the link below

You can read more on the Rugby career of John here at this Rugby site.

Returning to matters of cricket, I can say with some confidence that wicket keepers tend to judge bowlers’ ability accurately. The bowler has a huge hand in the making of the ‘keeper’s status. Part of my destiny was to keep wickets to the bowling of John Blomley.

Now although I was a mere second class cricketer, I have been lucky enough to keep wickets to a number of Australia’s Test bowlers including Johnny Martin, Pat Crawford, Grahame Corling, John Watkins and (as a Golden Oldie) Robert Holland. I have batted against Gordon Rorke, David Sincock and Peter Philpott, all Test bowlers. You can add to that perspective keeping wickets for countless other bowlers from inter-varsity and the Grades of Sydney and Newcastle, as well as the brilliant Merv Black at Arundel for the Australian Old Collegians. Nowhere in that conglomeration of experience can a find another John Blomley.

I am not saying he was the best in my experience. But he was up there, unrecognised largely, with the stars. He was unforgettable with his wit and boundless energy. How sad for him to die aged 43.

John loved every moment of his cricket. His enthusiasm was catching. He polished that ball, especially at Stockton’s oval, like the finest medieval craftsman at work. If you bounced that ball with a throw, you were doomed to hear a torrent of abuse.

He rode the mystic winds of Stockton Bight with that ball like Pegasus. Perfect control with windy support. Three outswingers and then a sudden inswinger at LBW time. A sudden slow ball for a caught and bowled. A faster one, the wicket broken and a bail harmlessly hitting my jaw.

John was a busy doctor too. More than once play was interrupted by the urgent needs of a patient.

He was patient with me too, amidst all of his quest to overthrow batsmen. Cheerful with mistakes and generous with success. I still replay a missed stumping that would have given him a hat trick. It was a legside inswinger that left the batsman and me stranded and resulted in four byes. I have replayed that moment so many times that I am sure I could catch it now, old as I am.

It is such a long time now since I marvelled at John Blomley. We all fade away eventually don’t we? All that is left of our dreams is a memory in the minds of others. But somehow that is a very important place to be.

R

On Teaching and “Productivity”

Some Recent Thoughts

One click  on “TEACHING” below will give you access to the thoughts, and to a poem I wrote soon after I retired in 2004 from a teaching post in a Sydney high school.

TEACHING

Regarding that poem, education ministers and administrators should remember that the students below the test mean are half our future.

***

There are some challenges for teachers with that failing group of students that objective attainments tests do nothing for. The test psychosis in the minds of political administrators just now is courting disaster. I am not saying we don’t need tests. Test teach retest reteach has got to be part of every teacher’s program. What I am against is the tyranny of haloed attainments tests over everything else.
All my best wishes to the teachers of today. I am compassionate and proud that I understand ( to a large extent) what huge sacrifices you make and what difficulties you face.
         Royce

Title: To Know Is To Be Responsible

The words of my title here are from Mordecai Vanunu. They are my inspiration.

 Subtitle: Education On Probation

I have noticed so many dark deeds in my eighty odd years I will feel guilty unless I at least draw attention to some of them now. That is why I am writing this.

So let us begin a journey of revelation even though the past cannot be changed. Perhaps we can refashion its consequences.

First a poem about  unrealities imposed by political ignoramuses:

Categories

Here I am,

Limping through what was once tomorrow,

Struggling, sighing, crying, prying,

Lying in the clutches of the quicksand known as status.

Why is this so?  If you should wish to know

The reason for my life’s hiatus,

Visit my classroom of a dozen years ago,

The bleak place where my grade will forever be

Aligned, confined, maligned, defined as E

For all the world to see.

Not people in that place

But ordered classifications of merit or disgrace,

Probed and detected by tests ad infinitum,

Whose validity moves only fools to cite ’em.

So from that space in my stark inferiority,

Degraded by others’ implied superiority,

I’ve wandered aimlessly deprived of  sanity,

Longing to meet unclassified humanity.

O why am I cursed, reviled and frowned upon

Because I am not an alpha but an epsilon?

August 2009

There you are then: some initial thoughts about the present.

Any thoughts of the past? My past?

Well yes, actually, my eighty-three-year-old mind seems to want to hang on to my school memories.

1938: Kindergarten

My school life begins.

At any given moment there is always so much still to be learnt by every child. Take me as a child for example. Here’s a bit of my history to illustrate the challenge for curriculum designers.

When I was five,
I was just alive.

A A Milne knew all about me then, and I knew him. But what of the rest of the world? Look at all the things I didn’t know about.

Who was ruling the world then?

Australia — Prime Minister — Joseph Lyons

Germany — Chancellor — Adolf Hitler

Italy — Prime Minister — Benito Mussolini

Russia / Soviet Union — Secretary Joseph Stalin

United States — President — Franklin D. Roosevelt

United Kingdom — Prime Minister — Neville Chamberlain.

Look at what was happening to other children.

“Kindertransport” allowed children to escape from Germany to the United Kingdom in December of 1938 of to save up to 10,000 between 1938 and 1940. Many of these children’s parents were killed during the Holocaust.

Look at the inventions I was to  use eventually, but so much later.

Teflon is created.

Du Pont produces “nylon”. The first nylon toothbrushes are marketed.

The ballpoint pen, also called a biro, is invented in Hungary by Laszlo Bir.

The photocopier is created in the USA by Chester Carlston.

Freeze Dried Coffee is created by Nescafe.

Look at the arts that were not yet able to shape my thoughts.

Action Comics issues the first Superman comic.

Popular Films:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs;

Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney;

Jezebel, starring Bette Davis.

Look at the “adult” events so far from being understood by the child.

Adolf Hitler is Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.”

Howard Hughes sets a new Round The World Air Record of 3 days, 19 hours.

The first use of a seeing eye dogs occurs.

RMS Queen Elizabeth is launched at John Brown, Clydebank, Scotland.

Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia.

Albert Hofmann synthesises LSD.

Mexico nationalises foreign oil wells.

The Munich Agreement is signed.

Japan commits the Nanjing Massacre in China.

Germany invades the Sudetenland.

Freak Waves at Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia have 300 swimmers caught in a rip.

Now my teachers belonged to an era very different from today.

Yet I wonder why those teachers of mine still seem to be keeping an eye on me; those mentors of Miranda Primary School south of Sydney New South Wales Australia, in my time. That distant time had war, Empire Day and the White Australia Policy. Yet Conan, an Australian  boy originally from China, was in my class and we were mates.

Those teachers of mine must have been contributing factors to that friendship. They made the curriculum of their time work for Conan and me despite the troubled world we were in.

That’s my point. Love, empathy, professional awareness can win against a hostile world and inadequate administration. Is that happening in 2017? Not sure.

Above all, there was something about those teachers I trusted and respected. Such trust is a vital need today. Teachers teach everyone from PM to Inmate 765. Their work has vast consequences. They need support and open, free doorways to their own learning. Bad schools created by a balanced budget cost far more than Shakespeare’s Horatio could ever have dreamed of. University student-mortgages kill learning.

Mr Manuel, the Miranda silver-haired headmaster (principal these days) had a lovely rose garden. I can still smell the roses. To track it down today you would need to excavate the vast shopping centre now eulogised as Miranda Fair. This could  create two kinds of depression.

Miss Rogers, who taught me to read in Second Class and struggled to remove the threepence I put up my nose one silly day, still seems to be somewhere near me now. I can still sing “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” the song Mrs Jurd taught me in Fourth Class. Ben Jonson’s 1616 poem “Song To Celia” still lives in me because of that teacher.

Mr McDonald, my Fifth Class teacher, ladled milk to others and me as long as we brought a mug. Departmental policies extended this innovation to sealed bottles in the Fifties when I became a teacher. The milk was free in those days. I loved it. It made me feel I was part of a family not a contest.

Just now my looking glass seems to be getting darker and darker. I have been a teacher, K to university, for fifty years. Three degrees and an infinity of classrooms. That creates a big data base for judgements and comparisons.

That’s why I feel I’ve just got to talk about the shadows that worry me, as I leave the leading lights to their own narcissistic power. I can’t talk about everything at the one time. For now I focus on one cause of my anguish. Here it is. More later I hope.

The Curriculum Testing  Calamity

Too many externally imposed, one-off tests in reality decide not what you are but how well you can do the tests. Look at the lucrative flood of HOW TO DOs for Australia’s NAPLAN Tests. We teachers warned about this before this travesty of assessment was introduced. Those sales to me are indicators of the false status given to NAPLAN.

Of course we teachers use tests. We are professionals. We teach, test and reteach. We use diagnostic tests and we use attainments tests. But they don’t give children nervous collapse and create false league tables. Can’t we do better than allow the ridiculous tyranny of one-off testing to decide the fate of children and their teachers?

More or less on this matter, here’s a little poem I wrote some years ago when the troubles began to emerge.

Dear Teacher Did You Read It?

Dear teacher did you really read my story really truly read it really truly?

What I said was true–
My darling mother died when I was only ten.
It is true I didn’t understand we’d never meet again.

It is true my world became a beast that seemed to snarl and bite.
It is true that every kindness ceased and even God took fright.

It is true my father ran away when his world seemed to end.
It is true I searched the human race and couldn’t find a friend.

It is true I longed just one more time to hold her hand in mine.
It is true I jigged away on trains to the end of every line.

It is true you are busy every day, planning and doing your work.
So much to read and so much to say that it’s only rest you shirk.

But why did you talk about full stops and little slips of the pen
And give me an E on my report card and make me write it again?

Dear teacher did you really read my story really truly read it really truly?

August 2006

For your interest, her-picture-is-here.

What is a professional? Clearly someone who by study and experience has earned the trust of society. A practising surgeon is a clearly recognised professional. That surgeon, that adversary of death, pain and suffering, is widely recognised. How ludicrous it would be to force his patients to do a politically devised objective test before each operation!

Teachers have to do exactly this.

We teachers too, have difficulty in gaining the professional recognition awarded to surgeons. We have all been in classrooms and therefore claim to have the power to judge teachers. Very few of us have been awake in surgeries.

The surgeon creates, and deserves, instant respect as an enemy of death and illness. The teacher, as a proponent of life with all its vagaries and vicissitudes, may never know the precise consequences of a lifetime of teaching and so self-respect is often the main incentive to carry on. If you get out of the classroom and wander into the deceptive backrooms of administrative expertise, you can quickly rise to power over the classroom teacher.

But if you love children and teaching, carry on regardless in those classrooms.

Epilogue

Well now here I am: eighty-three and looking back on all those classrooms. I am so glad those teaching years happened for me. I feel justified in my professional status, despite my flaws from time to time.

One special thing I really do believe. If you were to give me a child in my classroom for a year, or even half of that year, I would be able to tell you far more about that child than twenty NAPLAN Tests.

And there on my old and rickety, pain riven legs I stand.

Parting Words

The Browning Version  Terence Rattigan

Andrew Crocker-Harris: You must excuse me. I had prepared a speech, but I find now that I have nothing to say. Or rather, I have three very small words, but they are most deeply felt. They are these: I am sorry. I am sorry because I have failed to give you what you had the right to demand of me as your teacher: sympathy, encouragement, and humanity.

Goodbye Mr Chips  James Hilton

“These examinations and certificates and so on–what did they matter? And all this efficiency and up-to-dateness–what did that matter, either? Ralston was trying to run Brookfield like a factory–a factory for turning out a snob culture based on money and machines…”

Class dismissed for now…

Royce