It’s Over.

It’s over. Just like that. Anthony was in no way prepared for this. Something was certainly different when she first appeared that night, but it gave him no indication of the revelation that was to come.

He stared in silence for a moment and his mood sunk. He felt undeniably alone. He felt tears well up but he was too despondent to cry. He wasn’t sure how to react so he just went to bed. It was probably late enough.

“I sleep better when I’m depressed,” he’d often told himself. It’s not scientifically proven, but it made sense to him. When he was depressed a numbness replaced the agitation that otherwise kept him awake. The realisation that it was over drove him to seek solace in the covers and escape the cold winter evening.

At about 2pm the next day it hit him again. His one day a week in the office had so far distracted him from the heart-breaking news, but now it returned to haunt him. Normally the promise of an evening in would carry him through the final monotonous and arduous hours at work better than an afternoon caffeine hit, but not today.

It was at this hour that he would customarily gift himself a mental power nap, a brief daydream, as he pictured the scrumptious evening meal, the choice of dessert and the pure pleasure of “slipping into my trackies and ugg boots for a few blissful hours in your company.” Rain pouring on his roof enhanced the comfort that was always better shared.

“You don’t share my comfort, you are my comfort,” he’d always said.

Colleagues had labelled him mildly and harmlessly eccentric as he broke into random grins and light chuckles provoked by the memories of the previous night’s adventures. He hadn’t smiled today. The pleasant memories stored themselves in the recesses of his mind but would remain suppressed for quite some time.

He trudged to the break room and shoved some instant into a mug with too much sugar and some ‘girlie milk’ – no full cream left.

Today, pouring rain reminded him that he’d forgotten his umbrella.

Working from home would be even harder now. At first the idea had excited him. No more commute. Snacks and meals at arm’s length. No need to shave, no need to dress up. He’d reached a top score of 3390 in Solitaire; surely that was something to celebrate. But now the emptiness was omnipresent, taunting him in his open-plan living area with impromptu workspace. The single lounge chair looked lonelier than ever.

“I’m supposed to leave it all behind and move on,” he chided himself. “I have to accept that it’s over. It’s life. Nothing lasts forever, as myriad soppy love songs remind us. I should start dating again,”

But how does one date during a pandemic?

Social distancing is not conducive to romance. Flirtatious conversations in dimly lit restaurant corners are just a memory, and dancing is discouraged or banned – although maybe the latter is a bonus for Anthony.

What of the post-date?

Various scenarios run through Anthony’s mind.

He enters his unit with the lovely young woman. He offers her a seat and a drink. She relaxes in the lounge chair while he sits on the kitchen chair and the table renders them more socially distanced than in a restaurant or on public transport.

“Maybe I should paste on the lounge chair a green circle with “Sit Here” and a tick on it,” he suggests to himself.

The single lounge chair could, on the other hand, be a pretext for intimacy.

“We’ll just have to share,” he flirts.

“Or there is space for both of us on the bed.” In his wild imagination this sounds cheeky and charming. In real life it’s probably sleazy.

Self-isolation and

a wild imagination,

a dreadful situation and

a lethal combination.

“Loneliness is as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” claims the psychologist on the radio.

Anthony thought sitting was the new smoking and he reminds himself to stop sitting alone in cafes lest he be fined or kicked out. On that reasoning, his daily exercise routine is therefore redundant. Maybe there’s no point dragging himself out of bed on winter mornings to slosh through the mud and rain. It always boosts his mood and offers a great sense of accomplishment, but if he’s virtually smoking 15 ciggies a day, what’s the point?

The clock grinds towards 5pm and he prepares to walk home. Then he stops.

Why go home? What have I got to go home to? You’re not there, and his mind races back to the previous evening…

He’d sat in numbed silence. It had finally come to an end. You’re gone.

What do I do now?

He started at the screen

Play Season 1 Episode 1.

Bondi Beach closed to the public?

Bondi Beach was once almost closed to the public, and it had nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia’s most famous beach was nearly lost to the public as far back as the 1880s.

Bondi Beach did close for a period of time in 2020 when many public spaces throughout Sydney were closed, and after hundreds of people flocked to the beach during warm autumn weekends despite requests from health authorities to stay at home and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The last time Bondi and nearby beaches had been hidden behind wire fences was during WWII. The mere notion of closing a beach incensed many Eastern Suburbs locals and fellow Sydneysiders, who regard beaches as an egalitarian sanctuary and a birth right to all Australians.

Their fierce reaction to the COVID closures reflects their emotional attachment to sand and surf. These feelings are put in context when considering that not even WWII closed Bondi. Military fortifications such as barbed wire, concrete tank traps, wire coils and iron stakes were installed on the golden sands, but swimming was still permitted. Swimmers at Bondi did have to negotiate a wire maze which was nicknamed the ‘rat run’, but they were not banned from entering the water in the 1940s as they were during autumn 2020.

Many swimmers must have regretted their decision to take a dip during the war, because Japanese submarines later breached a defence boom and launched bombs which exploded at Bondi, Rose Bay and Woollahra. Many swimmers were also rushed to Bondi Beach Public School first aid post to be treated for cuts and bruises.

Temporary closure

Short-term closures are not uncommon at Bondi. In August 2018 the beach was closed after the body of a whale calf washed ashore and had to be removed. The presence of the whale calf also increased the risk of shark activity and the sighting of the ocean’s apex predator will often close beaches.

Bondi lifeguards are cognisant of the dangers of big swells and strong currents after five people drowned and hundreds had to be rescued on February 6, 1938, which has since been known as Black Sunday.

Permanent closure

Whale carcasses, shark sightings and dangerous surf have closed Bondi Beach temporarily, but not permanently. A permanent closure almost came into effect in the 1880s.

The land around Bondi Beach was originally granted to road builder William Roberts as far back as 1809. In those days, Bondi was far from a tourist haven and an exclusive Sydney suburb. Limited access and transport meant that very few people ventured to the beach. Even in 1851, the beach was still sat a long way from the city, so Edward Hall and Francis O’Brien were able to purchase 200 acres in Bondi which encompassed most of the beach frontage. Modern-day Sydneysiders would die for such water views. The new owners named the land ‘The Bondi Estate’.

Perhaps this is the first recorded evidence of ‘Brand Bondi’

Between 1855 and 1877, O’Brien began buying sections of the estate from Hall, who was his father-in-law. Soon, O’Brien owned all of the land and renamed the area ‘O’Brien Estate’. Initially, the new owner was happy to share the property and the beach with the public and it became popular as a picnic ground and an amusement resort.

Then problems arose.

O’Brien felt that the beach and the surrounding area were becoming too popular and he threatened to stop public beach access. After much discussion among the people of Sydney, the Municipal Council contacted the government with the message that the beach must remain open to the public. As a result, Bondi Beach became a public beach on June 9, 1882.

The public were allowed to enjoy the beach, but it didn’t mean they would swim. In fact, daylight bathing was considered immoral and scandalous behaviour until the ban was lifted in 1903, and Bondi Surf Club was not established until 1906.

Since the tramway to the beach was completed in 1884, visitor numbers have increased year after year and Bondi is undoubtedly the most visited beach in the country. In 1929 it is estimated that 60,000 people were visiting the beach on any given Saturday or Sunday in summer.

Interestingly, Waverley Council currently faces another challenge to keep the entire beach open to the public. A business groups wants to establish a private, European-style beach club at one section of the beach in 2021, which would charge about $AU80 per person for entry.

While the private club would restrict entry to only about 2% of the famous stretch of sand, the proposal has divided opinion among Bondi locals and Sydneysiders. Some people believe the club will boost the local economy and add vibrancy to the space after the restrictions of COVID-19, while others claim that forcing people to pay to go to a beach is simply ‘UnAustralian’.

Sydneysiders will soon find out if they must once again fight to keep Bondi beach open.

Image: http://www.timeout.com

Great Public Schools Launch the Rugby Revolution.

The Great Public Schools athletic association is set to introduce the greatest revolution in Rugby Union since William Webb Ellis picked up the ball, after the organisation of Australia’s wealthiest schools granted itself permission to complete its sporting season during COVID-19 restrictions.

The GPS sporting association, which includes The Scots College, Sydney Grammar School and Sydney Boys High School, will play the first ever series of socially distanced rugby in the world. Spokesperson for the association, Richie Power, outlined some of the monumental changes to the sport and their likely impact.

  • No contact – Players may not pass within 1.5 metres of each other, even their teammates.

Rolling mauls will subsequently resemble an interpretive dance, and every line out will be won by the boy with the longest wing span. There’s no chance of hands in the ruck and scrums will become even more farcical than those in the NRL.

  • Try

The game they play in heaven will revert to its roots and tries will be worth 0, but earn the scoring team the right to ‘try’ for a conversion.

“If we awarded points for tries, we’d end up with cricket scores every game, and we know Rugby players can’t count,” explained Power.

Essentially, players cannot touch the ball or any other player with their hands, and can only advance the ball up the field with their feet. The end result will be…soccer.

  • Restricted spectators

Parents and Old Boys can follow the Rugby Revolution from Bellevue Hill to Parramatta. While spectators are prohibited from standing on the side lines, they can chant war cries from the comfort of their Range Rover, Rolls Royce or Bentley, or from their private yacht moored in Lane Cove River, after it has been collected from the Seychelles or Turks and Caicos.

Old Boys of The King’s School are exempt from any COVID-19 restrictions as the school has declared its sizeable territory a sovereign nation not subjected to the laws of Australia.

Critics have slammed the decision to allow the GPS schools to continue their regular sporting fixtures while others schools must still abide by COVID-19 restrictions, but Power defended the move.

“We paid a fortune for our scholarship athletes, sorry students, and we demand a return on our investment. If not, we’ll have to send them back to the western suburbs or an island in the South Pacific, or simply let them study, learn and improve their academic and employment prospects”

“In addition, we need to be able to channel our considerable government funding into extravagant sporting facilities and specialised coaches. Otherwise we’d be forced to give our Teachers such an enormous pay rise that they could finally afford to live within an hour of their workplace.”

“Without Rugby, we would just be public schools, and that’s not great.”

First published in The Beast Magazine, October 2020.

Image: http://www.greenandgoldrugby.com

Tony Abbott: ‘Let Drug Addicts Die.’

Former Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott has demanded that all drug addicts in Australia be refused medical treatment or rehabilitation and be left to die.

Abbott made the comments after also calling for an end to COVID-19 restrictions, which would likely result in the deaths of many elderly Australians but would open up the economy.

“Nobody is forced to take drugs,” Abbott announced from London, where he is set to advise the UK government on matters of trade.

“Anyone who is proven to have taken illicit drugs, or even taken an excessive amount of prescription medication, should be left to die. We should stop offering medical treatment and rehabilitation services to these people because they are damaging Australia.”

Abbott then explained why he had taken this stance, even after attracting a lot of criticism for his comments regarding elderly Australians.

“People take drugs by choice and they put themselves in a position to die or fall seriously ill, and it is their fault if they die. Admittedly, some people may turn to drugs after experiencing significant trauma, such as fighting in wars which politicians instigate, but you can’t tell me those young kids popping pills at music festivals are suffering trauma.”

“Illicit drug use and the drug trade cause enormous damage to Australian society. Taxpayers fund rehabilitation, training and housing services for addicts, so letting them die would boost the nation’s economy. Drug use tears families apart and takes food off the table. What’s more, we know drug addicts can often be found in prison and on the unemployment lines.”

Critics of Abbott’s proposal pointed out that letting drug addicts die would leave some children without parents, to which he replied,

“Addicts are rarely good parents.”

The former national leader also claimed that refusing to provide medical treatment to drug addicts would free up ambulances and hospital beds for other people in need of these services, including the victims of drug-related crimes or accidents.

“Refusing to treat drug addicts at medical facilities should reduce our overall health budget and allow us to spend money in other areas.”

“As a nation, we devote so much time, money and effort to rehabilitation services, but we know that most addicts don’t quit taking drugs.”

Abbott would not be drawn on whether he supports the decriminalisation of illicit drugs. Proponents argue that this would reduce the crime associated with drug dealing turf wars. Drugs would be decriminalised but rehabilitation services would be scrapped entirely, and the money currently spent on rehab would be redirected to extra police in order to combat the subsequent rise in crime from drug addicts desperate to fund their next hit.

It is not clear whether Abbott suggested the move in order to help reduce the world’s populations, as overpopulation is the biggest problem currently facing the planet. As a conservative politician and staunch capitalist, Abbott would generally favour a large population which contributes to continued economic growth.

The Australian government has so far distanced itself from Abbott’s comments, and this latest controversy may explain why he was sent to England.

Image: Mark Nolan, Getty Images

Teachers face this every day.

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Australians reacted in horror to social media footage showing citizens refusing to obey coronavirus social distancing rules. The perpetrators demonstrated rudeness, arrogance, insolence and self-entitlement, and blatantly disobeyed authorities and expert advice which placed themselves and others at risk. Australian school teachers face this kind of behaviour every day.

I don’t consent to being punished

One woman actually said this to police in one of the viral videos. Australians mocked the woman for holding such a ridiculous view of law and order and the new health measures. This attitude is not entirely new however. Australian students, and many of their parents, have created an atmosphere in schools in which students feel they have the right to ignore teachers or punishments if they do not consent, or if the punishment doesn’t suit them.

“I told my daughter not to do the detention.”

A parent said this to me. No hint of irony or sarcasm. Her year 7 daughter had been repeatedly warned about her misbehaviour and defiance which was preventing her and her classmates from learning. The student refused to do numerous detentions, and she told me she would not do any in the future. She accompanied her response with a smirk that would have made Scott Morrison proud.

How can she get away with this?

Because her mother told her not to do the detention.

Why?

Because the daughter didn’t want to do the punishment. They kind of missed the point – no one is supposed to want or like a punishment.

Teachers have been stripped of their ability to manage student behaviour in schools. Parents and students now dictate behaviours to teachers, and schools largely acquiesce, partly because this is the atmosphere that Australia as a nation has created in our school system, and partly because this was a fee-paying school in which parents believe they have unlimited power. As student behaviour worsens, teachers’ power decreases.

Another student once refused to do a lunchtime detention, but only because two other teachers had already given him detention for the same lunch break. I suggested he hire a secretary.

Casual defiance

During the early days of the pandemic in Australia, many citizens blatantly ignored or disobeyed police. When the first lockdown was implemented, police patrolled public spaces to enforce social distancing rules. News reports carried endless stories of everyday Aussies blatantly ignoring police, refusing to obey directives, answering back to police and arguing with the officers. Yes, arguing with police. The citizens were in the wrong, the police were enforcing rules designed to protect the general public, but people flat out refused to obey.

The citizens weren’t committing a crime as such. Their actions were minor compared to serious crimes, but they were disobeying police. Teachers are subjected to this behaviour every day. Students are asked or told to correct minor behaviours and so often they refuse, comply reluctantly or slowly, answer back, argue or reply with a smart, arrogant comment.

The casual defiance greets teachers every single day. It is enormously frustrating and draining for teachers to have to put up with this unnecessary behaviour every few minutes of every day.

By the way, is anyone else concerned that everyday Aussies are blatantly disobeying police and getting away with it?

Whingers

Australians love the term Whingeing Pom, which implies that English people complain about everything. Australians now whinge as much as any pasty Pom.

Australians are complaining that they are forced to wear a mask or walk the same streets in their own neighbourhood every day in order to curb the spread of the disease. Their ancestors lived through world wars and the depression, but they whinge about having to wear a mask outside. Australia’s penchant for whingeing is no more evident than in a school classroom.

Whinge your way to better grades.

Students no longer accept poor grades. If they don’t get the marks they want, many students complain. Unfortunately, even the most incoherent, meaningless, poorly written work must be re-assessed. Teachers are not allowed to tell students that their work simply isn’t good enough, even if it is clearly below the accepted minimum standard for that stage of education. Given the state of literacy in this country, some work should be sent straight to the recycling bin

Students have realised that they can whinge and complain their way to better marks. Students and/or parents complain, behind the teacher’s back, to the head of department or to the principal. The teacher is hauled before the head of department or principal, as if they are in trouble. The essay/ piece of work is given to another teacher to assess and in most cases the mark will be improved. It might only go from a C to a C plus, and no further, but the student wins. The teacher’s professional integrity is shattered, and their relationship with their colleague who re-marked the work could be damaged. Teachers will often give a higher mark to a re-assessed paper because for them it is not worth the hassle of maintaining the original mark.

This attitude is frighteningly obvious in the allocation of special consideration for students sitting the Higher School Certificate (HSC), the final exams in NSW. Hundreds of students, especially from private schools, are being granted extra time, breaks or other allowances to make their exams easier, and thus increase their grades. Many students should not qualify. They have exploited a loophole in the system and are benefiting.

The Boy in the Blazer

A classic example of a student who had whinged his way to special consideration in the HSC was the boy in the blazer. He attended a private school in Sydney, and his blazer was full of ‘letters’. Letters on a blazer are the private school way of honouring school achievement, and consist of an embroidered list on the student’s blazer. This boy had a long list of ‘letters’ on his blazer as a ‘prefect’ and ‘captain’ and member of various sporting teams. His demeanour suggested no learning difficulty. Yet, this ‘super’ student still needed extra time and other allowances to complete his exams.

Don’t give an E

I was told never to give a E. Using the scale of A,B,C,D,E, with E being the lowest, I was told to never give an E, because it was too much hassle for me as the teacher. If I had given E, I would spend hours of my free time justifying the grade, and the grade would probably be changed anyway.

Australians are whinging their way to better marks. They’re also whinging their way to a future of illiteracy.

Shameless and fearless

The people disobeying police also appear to have no shame or fear. They broadcast their disobedience and law breaking, and usually their un-masked face, on their own social media channels. They are either as stupid as a first-grade footballer, or absolutely convinced that they will not be punished.

They are not afraid of consequences.

In one school at which I taught, graffiti was a huge problem. You must be thinking, wouldn’t it be great if you could find out who was doing the graffiti, so you could punish the accordingly and stop it from happening. Wouldn’t it be great if you could put on your detective hat and determine through stealth who had applied the abstract tag or piece to the wall. It would be like uncovering the identity of Banksy. Except these students weren’t Banksy – they would graffiti their own initials. Everyone knew exactly who was guilty. The students had no fear or shame, however, because they were never punished.

A violation of human rights

The Bunnings video.

Another video showed a woman berating lowly-paid staff at hardware store Bunnings. Bunnings recently introduced a rule requiring every customer in Victoria to wear a face mask. No mask – no entry. The woman claimed that it was her right not to wear a mask, and that forcing her to wear a mask, or barring her entry, was a violation of her human rights.

Why is it that so many Australian coronavirus controversies have occurred at a Bunnings?

People the world over are complaining that the COVID-19 rules violate their human rights. The cult of the individual, to which these people subscribe, and for which we can thank the USA, has convinced these people that their individual rights are more important than the wellbeing of society, and that any action which prevents them from doing what they want to do is a violation of their human rights.

The dirty kitchen

I once taught at a boarding school. My role included supervising secondary boys in their dorm rooms, including the small kitchen they could use for snacks and supper. Teenage boys have a famously large appetite so bed-time snacks were common. The boys knew they had to clean up after themselves.

One night, one boy had finished his snack and was walking out of the kitchen without cleaning up his mess. I told him to clean it up. He refused. I insisted he clean it up, because that was the rule. I also insisted because the student was new, and was attempting to get away with disobeying every teacher in the school. He had so far ticked many of the teachers off his list, including the headmaster, which was rather disconcerting. I refused to give in to this deliberate act of disobedience, and a tense situation ensued. I did not raise my voice. I did not touch or approach the student. I simply used the broken record technique which has served teachers well throughout the ages. The headmaster heard what was happening and tried to help. Ironically, the boy ignored the headmaster and eventually listened to me and cleaned up his mess, before threatening all manner of harm on me.

I was later warned about my actions by the headmaster. He told me, with a straight face, that when I insisted on the student cleaning up his mess, I was violating the boy’s human rights. I’ll remember that next time someone asks me to clean the kitchen.

In that case, if you’ve ever collected garbage, worked as a cleaner or changed a baby’s nappy, are you a victim of human rights abuse?

Time wasting

Don’t forget, this behaviour is an enormous time waster.

Every COVID-19 related warning, arrest, fine or action has to be filed by police. This involves paperwork and man hours to process. Every time a person refuses to wear a mask or social distance and accept the subsequent punishment, they are wasting police time. One example circulating the media involved a lawyer for the anti-masker attending the police station in a balaclava to issue some form of legal proceedings against police on behalf of his client. His client was clearly in the wrong and clearly has no case, but the system is required to process the legal proceedings.

Teachers are also subject to enormous time wasting by students and parents who refuse to accept the justifiable actions of the teachers or the school. Every student or parental complaint has to be documented. Every act of student misbehaviour has to be documented. Modern day teachers spend so much of their time logging student misbehaviour in order to satisfy bureaucratic requirements and to cover their own backs that they are left with little to time to plan, prepare and teach.

Powerless

A lot of the responses to the videos on social media asked;

Why do police put up with this? 

A lot of people also don’t understand why teachers put up with bad behaviour every single day.

They have no choice.

The authority of teachers is being stripped away year by year, and the list of prohibited punishments grows longer every year. Students know this, and canny teenagers realise they are unlikely to face consequences for most forms of misbehaviour. Teachers are now paranoid that a punishment will result in an accusation of mistreatment from the student or parent. Worse still, that complaint is likely to be listened to. A complaint, no matter how unjustified, can these days cost a teacher their job or career.

Are police similarly constrained? I’ve never worked in the police or law enforcement so I can’t say, but are they under similar instructions to tread carefully with offenders? The social media videos show a lot of police copping a lot of abuse from people in the wrong. We certainly have to congratulate the police, and teachers, for keeping their cool in these situations.

Self-entitlement

Did you see the video of the young woman driving through a Melbourne border checkpoint? It made the news and did the rounds on social media – mainly because the woman in question posted it on her own facebook account.

The woman refused to cooperate with police then drove through the checkpoint, before police could decide whether she had a right to pass through the checkpoint. Her manner was rude, insolent and arrogant towards police, and she refused to do anything police asked her to do. She then drove off laughing and celebrating her ‘victory’. She revealed her identity on social media, and had to know that police would take down her number plate.

This is typical of the sense of self-entitlement that many young Australians feel, and typical of the behaviour directed at teachers on a daily basis.

Authorities claimed the woman “…deliberately attempted to cause issue for police…”. Countless school students deliberately cause issues for teachers, for the fun of it. This destroys the learning of other students, and in the case of subjects like manual arts, technology or sport, puts everyone in physical danger.

“Teenagers are disobedient, it’s your job to discipline them”

I was told this by the mother of a girl whose blatant disobedience was ruining my year 10 English class. She forgot that first and foremost its the job of parents to discipline their children, something she had failed to do for the last 16 years.

Just because teachers DO put up with this behaviour, doesn’t mean they SHOULD. In countries with high levels of academic achievement, teachers are regarded as scholars, and spend much less time dealing with behavioural issues. Meanwhile, Australia continues to fall behind.

Just like the anti-maskers or COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, the actions of disobedience ruin things for everyone else. Anti-maskers put other people at risk of contracting a deadly disease. Disobedient students prevent other students from learning.

Are you saying school is all about discipline and punishment?

No.

School is for learning. Without behaviour management, or discipline, teaching and learning cannot occur. Literacy and numeracy rates continue to fall across the nation, and poor student behaviour is one of the main reasons. Not the only reason, but a significant reason. There are many different ways to ensure students behave, and corporal punishment is not one of them, despite what some people might say.

Are you saying shop staff, police and medical staff should put up with this behaviour?

Absolutely not. Low-paid  shop workers, like those at Bunnings, as well as police, ambulance drivers and other front line workers, should never have to put up with this behaviour. It is disgraceful and it highlights many of the underlying faults in Australian society.

Why is it such a big deal?

It is harming students, teachers and the nation.

Disobedient, rude, selfish, arrogant and entitled students are on the rise, and they are ruining the education of the good students. The endless defiance of students is driving good people away from the teaching profession, and the behaviour of students on a daily basis is lowering the general standard of education in the country. An uneducated population will not withstand competition from emerging and advanced nations, and Australia is dumbing down more and more every year.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for a politician to thank Australian teachers for their dedication during COVID-19…in the form of a pay rise.

Image: Element5digital